Pause Plastic Pollution

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Pause Plastic Pollution

St. Columba's Girls National School with Facility for the Deaf, Cork

Images of team working on project

Social change is taking place in primary schools too! Through the YSI Design For Change Programme, St. Columbus Girls National School in Cork, with the help of their Guide Lesley McGuire, took on the issue of plastic pollution and came up with some amazing ideas. They are the first Ireland team to share their project story to the Design for Change global platform!

The Social Issue:

Beginning their journey into social innovation, the team worked together to choose a social issue. They made suggestions anonymously so as to remain uninhibited in their choices.

Throughout their exploration of different issues in their community, some of the things they looked at included the design of their school uniform, the need for a bicycle rack at the school and also the need for sporting opportunities and recreational activities for students. They made suggestions to the Principal, the Board of Management and also local councillors. 

A social issue for which they all shared a passion eventually emerged: climate change. COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference was happening in Glasgow at the time and the team decided it was the issue to which they wanted to contribute.

Collage of team at work

The Idea:

When it comes to the life-cycle of a toy, pollution occurs at many stages. There is the manufacturing of the plastic to make the toy, the transportation of the toy and ultimately the disposal of the toy at the end of its life. The team were eager to tackle this problem and so turned their attention to finding solutions.

Among the ideas they come up with were using natural alternatives to plastic e.g. wood for toys and cloth bags for packaging; reducing consumerism, recycling old plastic, buying products made from recycled plastic, minding their things so as to be able to pass them on and lengthen the life of an item, using secondhand as much as possible, avoiding fast fashion and asking themselves, "Do I need it?", before they buy anything.

As Christmas was approaching, the team from Fifth class noted that most of them had perfect toys at home which they no longer used. If they could pass them on to another child, then that would mean not only that the toy wouldn’t end up in landfill, but also there would be no need for the production of a new toy. The idea for the Christmas Toy Swap was born! They realised that if everyone brought a toy into school to swap, then everyone would go home with a toy new to them. 

To organise the Toy Swap, the team shared out the responsibilities like marketing, supply and collection. They promoted the event with posters and announcements on the school intercom and set up a station to sanitise and wrap the toys, with recyclable plastic wrap donated by a local business.

What a fantastic solution to making the challenge of plastic pollution comfortable in an understandable way.

M. Poulter, Third Class Teacher

The Impact:

The impact of the Toy Swap on the school community was huge. Following Covid, it was the first all-school event in two years. The excitement of the build-up was felt throughout the school. Despite the challenges presented by Covid, the Toy Swap was a huge success and the responsibility of successfully organising and delivering the event was wonderful for the team. 

For example, the team worked within their Pods throughout the planning of the event. All toys collected were handled with gloves, sanitised and then sealed in recyclable plastic. Classes attended the Swap using a one-way system with a 3-minute break between each class. The team kept notes of who donated from each class to ensure that they received their toy. A raffle ticket system devised by the girls meant that any toy donated that was not chosen could be returned to the child who donated it.

The team also wanted to use the opportunity to raise some funds for the school and so suggested a small voluntary contribution from participants, raising over €300 on the day. Entertainment was provided by the younger classes who sang carols and danced at the event and also local businesses donated prizes for a raffle.

The success of the Swap was shared at school assembly, on the school website and social media channels and on the DCU Changemaker network, of which the school is a member.

Keen to continue making an impact, the students plan to run another Toy Swap before the end of the school year. They have proposed expanding the idea to include books. They are currently participating in the BFG to EU programme to further encourage active citizenship in their local and global community.