Eco-friendly youngsters at a Kirklees school have a mountainous problem on their hands: what to do with the 31,000 recyclable milk bottles they amass each year.
And given that the bottles are recyclable, neither Karen nor her pupils expected to hear that they should be thrown away in the school’s grey bin designated for ordinary rubbish.
“Currently 161 pupils in our school have milk on a daily basis,” explains Karen.
“Up until recently this was in cartons and straws were provided. As straws are single use plastic and remain in the environment for hundreds of years our Eco Group, who have registered with Surfers Against Sewage to commit to reduce single use plastics, calculated that our school uses over 31,000 annually. So we were looking at alternatives.”
In the meantime the company providing milk changed to plastic bottles. A Year 6 pupil who phoned the milk company was told that the change was due to the bottles being recyclable which at least solved the straw problem.
But as Karen points out: “Now we have the bottles to dispose of!”
After explaining the situation to Kirklees Council Karen says she was advised either to put the bottles in the grey bin or “to get the headteacher to take them to a recycling facility.” A local recycling company would charge for plastic to be taken away.
The school already recycles cardboard, paper and used stamps as well as textiles, the latter collected on a quarterly basis by a recycling company. Money raised is used to buy items for the school, such as gardening equipment. The paper skip is provided free of charge by Kirklees Council.
And in a new report by Ofsted, which continues to judge the school as “good”, inspectors have singled out pupils for their knowledge about the need to take care of the environment.
Karen added: “We are genuinely trying to make pupils more responsible but everything seems to be against us. We use more than 31,000 bottles in a year - and that’s just one school. I think there is countrywide confusion over the issue of recycling.”
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Kirklees’ current plastic recycling systems only allow for plastic drinks and milk bottles, including from toiletries and household cleaners. However, the lids should be disposed of in a grey bin as they are a different kind of plastic.
Similarly, margarine tubs, yoghurt pots, plastic film, food containers and ‘Tetrapak’ cartons all have to go in the grey bin.
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “The Waste Strategy Team would be happy to visit the school to offer recycling and waste workshops to teachers and pupils.
“We offer Kirklees schools a free green bin recycling service. To qualify, the school must present the bins at the nearest kerbside. The most recent email was circulated to schools in September offering the service. We also send a reminder message to schools twice each year.
“We expect the plastic milk bottles to be recyclable but are happy to visit the school to look at the bottles and confirm. The team has not advised the school as suggested in the enquiry.”