When my kids went back to primary school and nursery this week - finally, after exactly six months – we had the usual quick chat with their teachers about book bags and PE kit and what they needed when. And then we discussed why we didn’t want anything laminated sent home please. Or polystyrene crafts or plastic bottle treasures.
Zero waste at work is pretty straightforward for the two adults in our house, especially as we work from home these days but school is another matter.
I have no understanding of the relationship between primary schools and their devotion to laminating everything they can get their hands on. Surely it’s more labour-intensive at a time when teachers are stretched to their limits as it is? Not to mention expensive?
I get that there might be circumstances in which a very random bit of paper may need to be encased in plastic that I, in my blinkered state of what’s normal to me and mine, might not fully appreciate. But I genuinely can’t think of any off the top of my head.
I just don’t need my three year old’s 25th squiggle that day in wipe clean form. I can’t recycle it, I can’t do anything with it.
If really important things like, say, A-level certificates don’t arrive through the post on exam day fully laminated then why did my daughter’s reception class painting of a pair of wellies? Or… I think they’re wellies anyway.
Then there’s the plastic in their school dinners. Show me a year 3 trip to Rievaulx Abbey (a rather lovely spot in North Yorkshire seeing as you asked) and I’ll show you the pile of plastic bottles, wrappers and packets from their packed lunches (not so lovely).
And you know what, the kids don’t want it. I was once asked during a live radio interview whether children were really OK with cutting out plastic. But the question merely smacks of the concerns of grown-ups, not children.
Theirs is the generation watching a disaster come barrelling towards them that could reach full force to threaten their very lives when we are long dead.
They’re the ones staring the climate catastrophe in the face and not flinching. Unlike us.
My three year old niece talks about plastic hurting turtles in the ocean. My 15 year old nephew won’t have the stuff in his house and thinks flying is a crazy way to hasten the eradication of the human race.
Like millions of others, I joined the climate change protests before Covid shook up the world and every time I was outnumbered as an adult 10:1 by the under 18s. Which makes sense seeing as they started the global movement.
Covid has prompted an even greater pollution disaster than we were facing before. Throwaway masks are now as ubiquitous as those little plastic bags of dog faeces dumped in hedgerows. (Speaking of which, if you really can’t be bothered to clear up after your dog, why would you wrap something that will at least break down into organic matter in something that won’t? I don’t get it.)
But if the pandemic has had any positives around here it’s that at least all the children at my kids’ school now use their own reusable water bottles on site and on trips. Apparently that one measure alone will save the school £300 a term.
And the kids, of course, think it’s a great idea.