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Viridor’s waste-free packed lunch project turns pupils into ambassadors for change

30th October 2019

Pupils from Woodstock CE Primary School in Oxfordshire are giving parents food for thought with messages to reduce, reuse and recycle waste. The Year 3 and Year 4 pupils are working with largest UK-owned recycling and energy recovery company Viridor, to carry out a waste-free packed lunch challenge. The project is part of the ‘Earth Matters’ curriculum and aims to change household resource behaviour.

Viridor’s education team from Ardley Energy Recovery Facility organised the project. They used packed lunches to show pupils the different types of waste that could come from their packed lunch and how to sort the materials into recycling, non-recycling and food. The pupils were encouraged to think about the message “Right Stuff, Right Bin”, and to ensure recyclable materials were clean and dry before being thrown away, to avoid contaminating other materials.

Viridor Learning and Visitor Centre Manager, Jessica Baker-Pike, said: “Viridor’s annual Recycling Index was released a few weeks ago and an overwhelming number of people expressed a desire for lessons in recycling to be compulsory for British schools.

“The ‘Earth Matters’ topic is a fantastic opportunity for us to heed the call for recycling education in our schools. Through our partnership with Woodstock Primary on this project, we have had direct impact and engagement with close to 1000 people in the school community who were also informed of the project through the school’s newsletter and website. The impact was magnified to the town’s community of 1200 households via the parish magazine and Sustainable Action Group network.”

Viridor believes that a great deal can be achieved through education and the power of pestering! Pester Power empowers children with “Right Stuff, Right Bin” messages and encourages them to take the message home along with a pledge for their parents to change their household resource behaviour.

Not only were Woodstock’s pupils shown how to separate their waste, they had fun in the process. They were taught how to calculate the mass and volume of packed lunch waste they had produced collectively, using maths and science. The pupils were then given teaching tools in the form of an easy-to-follow exercise and a pledge that they could take home to help them change their household’s resource behaviour.

Woodstock CE Primary Headteacher, Lisa Rowe, said: “The waste-free packed lunch challenge is a really creative and engaging initiative that fits in well with our ‘Earth Matters’ core curriculum, which covers math, science and creativity. It has had significant impact on our pupils and their parents’ attitude towards waste and recycling. We can see this clearly in the initial results of the data calculations.

“It’s amazing to see how quickly the pupils have adopted all they have learned about recycling, and how they are talking with their families about it at home. I’ve had many parents write to me, and pupils who have done additional pieces of work, inspired through this school wide project. We hope that this will be a lasting change of attitude that will contribute positively to reducing waste and increasing recycling.”

Jessica said: “Children are excellent ambassadors and voices for change, which is the reason why Viridor is encouraging a shift in behaviour towards waste through education.

“Younger children like the ones that we have been working with on the project, love to feel empowered to become their parent’s teachers. We know from feedback, that they have shared lessons learned from our project with their parents and families.”

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