Pupils from Scoil an Linbh Íosa, Killymard, Donegal Town were among several individuals and organisations who came together to gather 40 large bags of plastic bottle tops for recycling.
The bottle tops will be used to make highly durable outdoor furniture such as picnic tables and buddy benches. And just as importantly, they will not go into landfill. Nor will they join the estimated eight million tonnes of plastic that get carried into the ocean every year.
The woman who came up with the idea to collect the bottle tops was Sharon Herron. She was delighted with the response.
Mrs Herron heard about bottle tops being collected for charity, so she decided to look into it further. Having children at Scoil an Linbh Íosa, she knew there was a commitment to managing waste in an environmentally responsible manner. She therefore approached the school about getting involved.
Last year’s Fourth Class and their teacher Mr John Gillespie began the process. It was carried on by the current Fourth Class with support from all the other pupils, staff and Principal Enda Nolan.
Other people soon got involved, and by the time the bottle tops were being taken away last Wednesday, Ms Herron had a vanload ready to go.
The 40+ bags of plastic bottle tops were collected by Jonny Hall, who came from Newry to talk to the school children.
The pupils were enthralled as they watched videos showing what happens to plastic inside a recycling factory. They were amazed to see how plastic bottles were turned into synthetic fabric used to make everyday clothing, and they had plenty of questions for Mr Hall afterwards.
The pupils also learned about the devastating effect plastic was having on our oceans.
Green Schools co-ordinator for Scoil an Linbh Íosa Ms Berni Canny said that having completed much of the Green Schools programme, they were now moving on to the Global Citizenship in Litter and Waste award.
“We realise how a bit of litter that you throw away impacts on the rest of the world,” she said. “There is a sea of plastic litter in the Caribbean. It is disgusting, miles and miles of it floating on top of the water. Imagine being a sea animal and looking up and only seeing all that plastic rubbish.”
Mrs Canny explained that this sea of plastic started with small bits of litter being washed into streams, carried into rivers and eventually into the sea where it had devastating consequences.
Indeed, this was echoed very strongly on the BBC series Blue Planet 2 with David Attenborough.
Mr Attenborough said in the final programme of the series: “In filming Blue Planet 2 we found plastic in every single corner of the ocean, even the most remote.”
Marine experts involved in the show spoke of plastic regularly being found in the stomachs of chicks. They believe 90% of seabirds could be contaminated with plastic. Sea animals such as turtles, whales and dolphins also suffer greatly from plastic being in the oceans.
But there was also a message of hope.
One biologist involved in Blue Planet 2 said: “It is not too late to choose the future we want. But we need to act now and we need to act together. Everybody can make a difference, everybody can do little things, and those little things add up. Collectively, they make a huge difference.”
The pupils of Scoil an Linbh Íosa are showing themselves to be strong leaders in this respect and are certainly embracing the responsibility of Global Citizenship.
And while the bottle tops do not have a huge financial value, Mr Hall gets around STG£400 per lorryload, all of which goes to nominated charities. He expects to fill a second lorryload this year, thanks to the bottle tops gathered in Donegal. The charities chosen to benefit in 2017 are Breast Cancer Research, Water Aid and the NSPCC. Mr Hall told the pupils of Scoil an Linbh Íosa that he was open to suggestions for next year’s beneficiaries.
Other individuals and schools who got involved in the bottle top collection with Scoil an Linbh Íosa were: John Gillespie; Danny and Betty McBrearty, Killybegs; Dermot McHugh and Connie McDevitt, Gairm Scoil Chul Uladh, Clochan; Mick Horgan, Deele College, Raphoe.
The plastic bottle tops collection will continue in Donegal. Anyone who wishes to get involved can contact (087) 2530574.
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