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Issue 17 – Recycling Plastic Feels Fantastic!

We are now at the end of January. The time of year when we reflect on how long ago the Winter Break feels and how well we have stuck to our well-intentioned New Year’s Resolutions. Every year I devise two: a work-related resolution and something more personal. For the work-related, in 2019 I am ‘aiming to read at least one educational book per term’ (currently reading ‘Positive Education’ by J. Norrish). For the more personal, there are always the obvious plans such as save money and exercise more, but given my new focus this year at the College, I decided to go for something of an environmental theme. I suppose you could argue I chose a resolution which conveniently combines both work and personal life! And this is it: ‘to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.’

Students at DESC will know that I already love recycling. I still vividly remember a lesson when I was in Year 6 at school (yes, recycling started that long ago!) in which the local authority of Plymouth brought in a variety of waste items and put them on a conveyor belt. I was one of the lucky students chosen to sort the rubbish into recyclable and non-recyclable, so of course this lesson sticks in my mind! A very early memory of me appreciating the purpose of recycling, which has grown since then. My family and friends all recycle avidly at home, using several bins to sort the rubbish into plastics, glass and papers; a common sight in most UK homes nowadays and a feature of my kitchen here in Dubai too.

My Mum loves to reuse. Since I can remember, she has carried plastic shopping bags in her handbag, folding them into small triangles to save space. And now with the 5p ‘Bag-tax’ in the UK (set to rise to 10p soon) her handbag is brimming with old plastics and Bags for Life! So of course, a few of these habits have also rubbed off on me and I am often seen digging around for a few bags I can re-use whilst doing my weekly shop in Carrefour.

But the most challenging aspect of this resolution for me so far has been ‘to reduce’. I recently watched a YouTube clip from Lauren Singer, a girl in her twenties who lives in New York and has over the past three years has only created a jam jar of waste. Her story is incredibly inspiring and fascinating. She buys food items using her own Tupperware and makes her own version of products which are hard to source without packaging, for example toothpaste and shampoo. She only buys items which are recyclable and her clothes are all second-hand, meaning she is re-using as opposed to buying new. Her story really stuck with me and has made me think more consciously about the waste I create on a daily basis. I bought a bag of dried apricots a few weeks ago and was horrified to find each apricot individually wrapped in plastic. Fortunately, the plastic was recyclable (phew!) but it really made me think about our consumption and the necessity of the products we buy.

Therefore, it was only fitting to bring this New Year’s Resolution to DESC in the form of our inaugural ‘DESCares Environmental Awareness Week’ last week. The highlight of the week for me was the series of fantastic House assemblies led by four of our Year 9 students: Grace, Tiana, Tongfei and Hannah. They focused on the Global Plastic Problem, introducing staff and students to shocking facts and figures, together with the devastating effects of plastic pollution on our landscapes, wildlife and even our own health. Did you know, for example, that the world uses one million plastic bags every minute? A huge thank you to them for planning and delivering a very insightful and reflective assembly.  

However, in true DESC style, we did not want the week to be purely thought-provoking. We encourage our students every day to be independent yet active learners, and therefore we also want them to be proactive citizens of our planet. So, following on from the awareness drive of last week, this week was the inaugural DESCares Environmental Action Week. Students have learnt the facts about plastic – now it’s time to do something about it! In the Year of Tolerance, let’s not tolerate unnecessary waste any longer.

A big focus of the week has been the Bottle Recycling House Competition – which House can collect, crush and save the most plastic bottles. DESC have been supporting the Simply Bottles initiative since October and so far we have collected more than five enormous bags of crushed bottles (over 2000 bottles). This is a promising start, but given the number of students, staff and parents we have I think this could be much higher! So we would like you – parents, students and staff – to bring your plastic bottles into school, crush them down and then throw them into the blue bins dotted around campus not only to support the House Competition but to engage with the initiative throughout the year. Simply Bottles will then collect the plastic and break it down into polyester thread for clothing and other material items. A brilliant way to close the gap on recycling!

There is also something to be said for avoiding plastic bottles altogether. Many of our students already have a reusable water bottle which they bring to school each day, but imagine if every student had a water bottle – we could eradicate plastic bottles completely from DESC! This would be the true spirit of ‘reducing’ in support of the environment (and selfishly, my resolution too).

Many students have also applied to be DESCares Environmental Ambassadors this week and I look forward to reading through the exciting ideas they have for reducing, reusing and recycling more around Campus this year. Watch this space!

Continue reading for this week’s highlights, including our first DESC Sports Festival.   The VLOG is back for 2019 – click here to watch.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Lucy Ellis

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