South West Eco-Schools Challenge

South West Eco-Schools Challenge

Between May and September, over 279 young people and their families from 30 Eco-Schools took part in the Eco-Schools Challenge competition, which took young people on a 12-week virtual journey around the South West coastline.

During their virtual journey pupils had the chance to explore and connect with their local environment, learn about microplastics and how their choices can make a real impact on where they live. Schools and families took part in a virtual microplastic beach clean at 36 locations using the Challenge mobile app as their guide. The app was a complete resource with a range of features, challenge activity sheets and a map of the South West with links to photographs of the beaches and hidden Nurdle trommels (the tool designed in the South West by the not-for-profit start-up Nurdle) to collect microplastics, which are also called nurdles.

Each location presented a different challenge for our Eco-Schools pupils- examining every room in their homes, they were encouraged to rethink their relationship with plastic during the lock down. Challenges also looked at opportunities outside the home, at school and elsewhere- to think about how to reduce use, reuse as much as possible and then recycle what they use carefully and effectively. The aim of the Challenge competition was to also help schools gather evidence for Step 5: Informing and Involving.

The grand prize in the Challenge competition was a £200 donation from UK recycling company Viridor to cover the cost of the Eco-Schools Green Flag fee- this was won by the amazing Great Torrington Secondary School in North Devon. Not only did Great Torrington claim the top prize but three of their students – Rowan (Year 9), Poppy (Year 8) and Harrison (Year 9) shared equal places in the Winning Pupils’ prize category.

Harrison: My parents and I have had a very informative experience with going through and
completing this great Eco-Schools challenge. We’ve loved learning about the different problems and
solutions that the world is facing – our eyes have been truly opened. My special thanks to Ocean
Recovery Project and Fillosophy Ltd for the prize you kindly offered me.

Great Torrington Secondary School Head Teacher, Andy Bloodworth: This was a fantastic
achievement by our pupils and their families who embraced this project in lockdown alongside their
normal schoolwork. Our pupils did an incredible amount of work for the challenge and we are very proud
of their efforts and dedication towards helping to build a more sustainable future.

Other Challenge winning pupils were from Damers First School in Dorset, Dorchester Middle School and
St Mark’s Primary School in Somerset- well done to all of you!

Eco-Schools Challenge Response

Viridor Director of Innovation and Regulations Environment & Sustainability, Tim Rotheray: I am delighted that Viridor has had the opportunity to support the Eco-Schools Challenge by funding the development of the Challenge mobile app. We have always encouraged a shift in behaviour towards waste through education because we know that people really want to do the right thing and recycle more. We believe that the competition was a creative and engaging way to inspire young people to begin to think about recycling, using our beautiful South West coastline as a powerful inspiration. and the crucial role that we can all play in maximising opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle. Congratulations to all the winners for their wonderful achievement.

Fillosophy Ltd Founder, Sylvie Verinder: I am immensely grateful to Viridor for sponsoring the Challenge and to the children, their families and teachers for the incredible engagement. It has proven that the right communication can have very positive and measurable environmental impact. 

Our Keep Britain Tidy Deputy Chief Executive, Richard McIlwain: In a decade within which we need to
urgently address some of our most pressing environmental problems, its vital that we not only educate
young people about the challenges but also drive development of the pro-environmental behaviours
required and the Challenge app is a fantastic example of a resource that does both. It’s so important that
young people learn about the plastic pollution problem threatening our oceans and I’d like to congratulate
the winning students but also all of the schools and students who participated and who now have a
chance to put their learning to use in becoming part of the fight back on plastic pollution.

Thank you to all the schools and families who took part in the Eco-Schools Challenge Competition. There are going to be a lot more Eco-Schools Green Flags flying across the
South West of England very soon!