Ireland’s schools are going plastic-free – are you in?

The EU parliament has just voted to ban the most common items of single-use plastic that end up in our oceans. Lidl Ireland has made a commitment to make huge cuts on single-use-plastic in all their stores, including black plastic packaging from fruit and veg and items like plastic cutlery and disposable plates. The growing publicity around the issue of plastic pollution is bringing about some change; things are starting to move in the right direction.

Yet, when we look at the extent of the problem, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. Luckily in Ireland (and across the world) more and more people are taking things into their own hands to advocate for alternative materials and working towards reducing their own use of plastic. People like Tara Shine and Madeleine Murray.

The two Cork women met while swimming in the sea and decided to join forces to help people in their community to come together and take practical steps to reduce their consumption of single use plastic. In January 2018 they co-founded the organisation Change by Degrees to educate, inspire and change behaviour related to plastic consumption and plastic waste. Only 8 months later, they became one of the awardees of the 2018 Social Entrepreneurship Ireland Awards. 


The approach Change by Degrees takes is based on empowering and mobilising stakeholder groups in a community to take action. Their programme Plastic Free 4 Schools, that became part of the ChangeX community earlier this year, helps schools to go plastic-free, through three plastic-free actions:

  1. Encourage reusable water bottles
  2. Say no to plastic in lunch boxes
  3. Say no to plastic straws

Three simple and practical steps that kids can get behind in their schools but also take home and into their communities.

The Plastic Free 4 Schools actions are complimentary with the Green Schools ProgrammeIreland’s environmental management and award programme, working with primary and secondary schools across the country. Schools participating in Plastic Free 4 Schools can also work towards the award.

Tara and Madeleine have developed plenty of resources to make it easy for teachers to engage pupils around the issue, including a workshop outline, posters to use, some tips of how to reduce plastic in lunch boxes and more.

Looking for 300 schools in Ireland to join the movement

The Plastic Free 4 Schools model has been first tested in Kinsale as part of Plastic-Free Kinsale where, within its first couple of months, 4 national schools and the secondary school signed up to start the Plastic Free 4 Schools journey.

As part of the plastic-free communities initiative on ChangeX we opened up the idea to schools across the whole country this summer, providing more guidelines and direct support.

54 teachers and parents have signed up so far, to take the idea to their schools. 17 of them have already got started with the programme. 

“Many of the facts and statistics about plastics and the effect it’s having on marine life have really shocked us. I signed up as we are in the process of applying for another Green School Flag around Marine Environment. We are very conscious about the amount of plastic in the ocean and want to make others more aware. We started by banning single use plastic bottles.”

says Aisling O’Brien, a teacher at a primary school in Dublin, one of the first to join the plastic-free pledge.

But the goal that Tara and Madeleine have set is more ambitious than that: They are looking for 300 national schools to take the pledge to become Plastic Free Schools within 12 months.

“Imagine how much plastic we can reduce across 300 schools in Ireland by cutting on single-use bottles, plastic in lunch bags and straws. Not to talk about the impact this has on the critical view of our children on consumption habits when it comes to the use of plastic.”

Register here to join the Plastic Free 4 Schools pledge.

Or just get in touch if you have questions or ideas about going plastic-free in your school or community. [email protected]

Start Plastic Free 4 Schools


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