Schools urged to eliminate single-use plastics by 2022

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Plastic purge: It is estimated that half a million straws are used in the world every day. Banning the use of straws is an easy step schools can take to eliminating single-use plastic (Image: Adobe Stock)

Schools have been asked by the education secretary to put plans in place to eliminate the use of single-use plastics by 2022.

Damian Hinds wants schools to stop using things such as plastic bags, straws, bottles and food packaging and find sustainable alternatives.

He also wants to see schools bringing their students into these conversations, educating them about the effects that discarded plastic is having on the environment and wildlife.

Last month, the Department for Education (DfE) praised the work of Georgeham Primary School in Devon, which has become the first UK school to achieve “single use plastic free status”.

The school was given the award by Surfers against Sewage, a marine conservation charity, after meeting five key targets, including an initial plastic audit of the school.
Changes the school has made include moving to washable beakers, getting rid of plastic from the school’s supply chain, and replacing other single-use plastics with plastic that can be easily recycled.

Mr Hinds said: “Plastic can harm our precious environment and be lethal to wildlife. The leadership shown by schools like Georgeham Primary in going single-use plastic free is an impressive example for us all – and I want work to support every school in the country following their lead by 2022.

“It’s not always easy but we all have a role to play in driving out avoidable plastic waste, and with more schools joining others and leading by example we can help to leave our planet in a better state than we found it.”

The DfE has said it will increase communication with the school supply chain regarding the plastic packaging of day-to-day supplies for schools.

The government’s 25-year Environment Plan launched in January pledges the elimination of avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and promises to consider steps to discourage plastic items that prove difficult to recycle and ideas to reduce demand for commonly littered items, including takeaway coffee cups and takeaway boxes.

There are also plans to introduce a tax on plastic packaging which doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of at least 30 per cent recycled content from April 2022, subject to consultation.

In Europe, the single use plastic items most commonly found on our breaches are cotton buds; plastic cutlery, plates and straws; balloons; food containers; beverage cups and bottles; cigarette butts; plastic bags; crisp packets/sweet wrappers; and sanitary items.

More generally, the amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly five million tonnes and research suggests that an average UK family will throw away about 40 kilogrammes of plastic per year that could otherwise be recycled.

  • The government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (January 2018) can be found at
  • For more information on the proposed plastic packaging tax, download the Single-use plastics: Budget 2018 brief (October 2018):

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