It was when the children at Stow Primary School in the Scottish Borders first heard about Monty Bailey that they decided it was time to take a stand too.

Monty, an 8 year old from New Zealand had taken on Fullers, a ferry company operating in New Zealand. He persuaded them to stop using plastic straws on all their ferries. He was recognised at the Earth Optimism event in Auckland and this got the children at Stow Primary thinking.

What if they could hold their own event? What if they too could disrupt the status quo in their local community, and use their voices to phase out single use plastics?

Thanks to their Principal Teacher, Debbie Matthewson, the dream has become a reality. She believes that “although the initial changes to single use plastic within the school were small the biggest change and the one that will hopefully have a lasting impact is the change in mindset amongst all of the pupils (from nursery to Primary 7), the parents, staff and wider community all of whom are now committed and passionate about changing their habits and seeking alternatives to single use plastic”

The pupils kicked off their campaign at the parent council meeting to plea for funds, so they could buy litter pickers and re-usable school water bottles. They wanted to clear up plastic in their local area and to reduce use of single use plastics in school. Next they went to visit the school cook and persuaded her to stop using plastic spoons for their yoghurt at lunchtime. Instead she moved to metal cutlery. They also requested that recyclable bags were used for their sandwiches rather than cling film

The momentum had started and the older children then wrote to the NHS, who provided them with plastic toothbrushes, to ask them to change them to bamboo ones instead. The local councilor visited to hear all about their work. Local families got on board and the whole school did a local beach clean at Portobello beach under The Surfers Against Sewage banner. Before long, they were successful in receiving a grant from The Hunter Foundation (as one of 100 Disrupters) to host their very own event; based on the one Monty Bailey had attended in Auckland.

The event held last September spanned two days and was attended by 100s that live in the local rural community. Some of the sessions were standing room only and covered by local and national media.

Sessions included investigation into what plastics are doing to the local rivers, a demo on Excel Vending’s reverse vending machine – which crushes up plastic bottles as part of the deposit return scheme. Zero Waste Scotland gave tips on the importance of reusing and recycling materials and Reece the Recycled Cow was born!

The children even wrote and performed an anti plastic rap song and now regularly post their events and work on social media.

Following the success of their very own Earth Optimism event, the pupils also took part in The People’s Seat / #TakeYourSeat at the United Nations, Climate Change Convention in Poland and one of their videos was used by the United Nations in their promotional video which was shared on Twitter.

The pupils of Stow have used their lessons to help a whole community view plastics differently.

The Principal Teacher, Debbie and her team have worked tirelessly to make plastic related issues real and tangible to the whole school and local community as well as to speak globally through the UN about issues they really care about.

And Debbie is not only teaching about these issues, she is also walking the talk as well. She has started addressing her own actions. She uses Giki at home to heighten her own awareness and be more mindful about what she buys. When she took some palm oil free peanut butter into school, the pupils were quick to point out that it had a black lid, which wasn’t recyclable!

Set on the next environmental goals already, Debbie and the team at Stow Primary are about to start work on palm oil, using Giki’s Tools for Schools. Watch this space for the next stage of the Stow Disrupters!

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