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Waves of Change with the Plastics Team in Illawarra

This month I was lucky enough to interview the incredible girls from the PlastICS team at Illawarra Christian School. They were so full of wisdom and are an incredible example of youth-led change.

What inspired you to take action in your school and combat plastic pollution?

Ava: We entered a competition that required us to identify an issue within our community and try to solve it. Since we’re so close to the beach, we all agreed that reducing plastic pollution was something we cared about and that, by starting with our school, we could make an impact on our community’s plastic usage.

Angie: Most of us love the outdoors and the beauty of nature (especially the beaches). Unfortunately, we all had seen horrific amounts of plastic washing through storm drains and entering the ocean. Our love for nature and the wonderful creatures that come with it inspired us to make a change in our community.

Isabel: Our innate love for nature was what has driven our passion for caring for the environment. We all love spending time outdoors and here in Wollongong, we have been blessed with mountains and the sea. The plastic pollution problem was something we had all observed within our community and whilst we knew it was a huge issue, we knew small changes could still make a difference.

Elise: We all found that we had a passion for the outdoors and the marine creatures that live around us. Plastic in and around the water was a massive issue that we identified, so we decided to tackle that problem. We found that the amount of plastic that our school was bringing each day was enormous, and so we decided to start there.

Callia: We all love our local beaches, and all share a passion for looking after the environment. We decided that reducing plastic consumption was a realistic way for us to make a difference! Doing research about how much plastic our school community uses was really impactful and inspired us to take action. It was amazing to see the difference we could make!

What switches did you make at home to reduce the amount of plastic waste coming from your lunchbox?

Isabel: Beeswax wraps, ridding lunchbox of glad wrap. Opting for single-use plastic options where available, containers for fruit and snacks, malleable pouches from sachii were ideas that I adopted. Overall I believe sustainability is a process, something that starts small and as you build habits, you can learn more and contribute more/ practice sustainability more effectively over time. I also recycle all my soft-plastic through Coles and Woolies initiatives.

Callia: Involving our parents and family was also a big part of living out what we were preaching. From encouraging them to use sustainable packaging and buying foods that aren’t wrapped in soft plastic

How did you approach school leadership regarding making big changes in the school?

Isabel: We had a 4 pronged approach. Educate, Engage, Reduce and Recycle with partnerships underpinning each part. These approaches spread through word of mouth, leading by example, regular assembly talks and videos and more. For greater detail, into our process, you can read our 2018 preliminary report attached below.

Starting small was something we thought was important to achieve a well-implemented and respected initiative. By starting small and engaging our target audience we could gradually make bigger changes in our school community.

Ava: We also targeted all of the demographics in our school. We’re a Kindergarten to Year 12 school so we knew the project had to be appealing to everyone. So we ran some colouring competitions for the young kids and photography projects for the high schoolers in order to make sure the whole school was keen.

What has been the most effective solutions you have implemented in your school community?

Ava: one of our most effective solutions was actually just educating the school on plastic pollution. By providing alternatives to plastic like beeswax wraps and suggesting things like brown paper bags and tupperware containers, our school community has been using plastic alternatives more often.

Callia: I think that by engaging different parts of the school community: teachers, parents and students, we have created a sustainable and supportive environment. The preventative measures through education are what I deem to be the most important.

Read more about PlastICS on their website

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