Litterpicks are a fairly regular event at the school, it is really nice to see how keen the children are to help tidy up their community even if it means giving up their own time.
Green Gang had mentioned at their meeting earlier in the week that there was lots of litter in the lane. They co-opted a few friends (including our School mascot 'Millie Banks') and organised another litter pick in a lane adjoining the school about 170m long. They took about 15 minutes and filled a black bag to the top of rubbish.
We had planned to weigh it but the cans were so full of rainwater and the paper so sodden that there was not much point, however we did a quick count of the different materials we found in the litter. We tried to identify what code the litter was and tested the cans with a magnet to see if they were magnetic steel or non magnetic aluminium. (Did you know 'A recycled aluminium can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours'? click here for more.)
'Chippy Lane' is so called because of the chip shop that stands one at the Cowbridge Rd End, on the other side of the lane is a small grocery store which has a bin outside. The Lane opens onto the pelican crossing across Cowbridge Rd West which leads to another newsagents shop and the Indian and Chinese takeaways that open in the evening. We had therefore expected to see far more chip wrappers and polystyrene trays and cones from the local chip shops but there were in fact as much waste from Mc Donalds as the chip shops. As you can see the majority of litter in the gully was from drinks but another surprising fact was that the overwhelming majority of the litter was recyclable or compostable. Only the foil crisp packets are not recyclable and Class 5 are using those for craft projects. (In Cardiff it is not practical to recycle polystyrene or Aluminium foil and they go into landfill.)
Having got the data we then had a chat to think about what we could do to reduce the litter in the lane. We also wanted to know what happens to litter that is cleared from our streets by the council? Is that sorted and recycled or does all go into landfill, same with the community service litter picks. Would extra bins at the end of the gully help or cause more problems? Why do crisp have to be in the foil type packets that cannot yet be effectively recycled? Being so artistic the children wanted to know if anti litter posters might help on a new community notice board.
Again the children gave up more time to prepare e-mail and letters to the Council asking about the litter in the lane, such as was it typical, when does it get cleaned and what happens to the litter when it is collected is it sorted and recycled or does it all go into Landfill. As soon as they tell us we will let you know.
When Green Gang looked at the litter they had collected they also noticed that the Princes' Orange Juice carton did not have any recycling code or anti litter logos on it at all. Should we put it in the bin for landfill or in the recycling bags? The children again went online and tried to find out the information there. Like many big companies Princes are very aware of their corporate responsibility and have a special document saying what they want to achieve and setting targets. Princes Ltd have their Juice packaging factory in Cardiff they can produce up to 12,000 cartons per hour.
We thought about what questions we should be asking the company and we practiced our letter writing skills one lunchtime, Mr Church the Group Marketing Director kindly took the time to reply to us:-
1.)Why the packaging we found does not contain any recycling codes or information on it?
"The cartons are fully recyclable- a fact we are currently considering how to communicate on-pack. Unfortunately there are still some local councils that do not currently offer recycling facilities for cartons and this makes putting a single clear message on pack very difficult..."
2.) On page 7 of the Report you say that you want to “support carton suppliers to raise public awareness of access points for recycling for their products to over 90%” Do you think that the litter is theirs or yours? and how will people know what the Princes orange juice carton is made from or how it can be recycled?
...Here at Princes we think it is important for everyone - including retailers, manufacturers, carton suppliers, local councils and consumers - to take responsibility for protecting the environment.
3.) Does the way the packaging can be recycled affect if you use them or not?
All our packaging is carefully chosen, taking recycling and other environmental considerations into account, whilst ensuring the highest standards of safety for the food and drink that we produce. Cartons are a popular packaging format for fruit juice because their shape means that more packs can be fitted on a pallet- making them easier to transport and helping reduce road miles.
Mr Church also said
"...Our carton supplier Tetra Pak also runs a scheme specifically designed to help schools recycle their cartons , which you may be interested in. Please visit www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk/Recyclable_schools.asp for more information. ...... Please keep up the good work"
Tetra Pak is a big company and the carton product it makes is very popular, it is made from thin layers of aluminium(5%) and polyethylene(20%) to protect the juice on a simple 'paperboard' box. But it is difficult to recover the different elements other than paper pulp and in Cardiff the packs are not mentioned at all on the list of things to put out for recycling or landfill (Apparently you must not put them in the green bags for recycling.) You can however take all your Tetra Paks to a special collection point in the many Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) across Cardiff (our nearest one is just over the bridge at Waungron Road its open 7 days a week from 7 till 6:45pm)
The school scheme sounds great but we would have to raise funds to pay to have it collected and 'recycled'. If Green Gang collected them at the school and took them over to the HWRC the school could be prosecuted and fined by the Council. Tetra Pak will tell you that aluminium and the plastic can be recovered and recycled using the latest plasma technology, but it is pretty obvious even to us that they do not tell you how much actually does get recovered.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT FROM OUR LITTERPICK
1.) Most of the litter we collected could be recycled.
2.) Too many drink bottles, cans, cartons and cups are being thrown away and these appear to be the bulk of the Litter.
3.) None of the parents staff or pupils knows much about the recycling points for Tetra Pak so they tend to go into Landfill.
Wow all that just from looking at a few bits of rubbish WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO HELP? why not tell Green Gang?
We found a wonderful site called Litter Heroes which is about ordinary people making a big difference to their local areas by collecting the waste and looking at where it comes. Why not have a look and download the forms for your next litter pick, go on make a difference to your community.
Did you know that we recycle just 10% of all the plastics we have in the UK?
We have some photos of other litter picks that we have done. They are below: