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As Bywaters’ lead Green Guru, I have been working with our partners at Thurrock Council to teach local children about the importance of recycling – and the passion they had for sustainability was both inspiring and reassuring in these uncertain times.

Engaging Children with Environmental Issues

Being able to teach the children of Thurrock about sustainable waste management practices has been a fantastic experience; it’s really rewarding to see these young kids get enthusiastic about protecting their environment.

Our engagement with schools in Thurrock started back in July, when Bywaters sponsored Crucial Crew sessions on recycling – providing sustainable freebies for the 1,000 children reached in these talks and giving them all something to remember the day by. Witnessing the children get so passionate about recycling during these sessions inspired us to get in contact with the council and go one better.

Between our Green Gurus and Thurrock Council we aimed to deliver school assemblies to children in different areas of Thurrock, raising awareness of the importance to reduce, reuse, and recycle in line with the climate change challenges now faced by the world. Each assembly was delivered by me and Lynn Aben (Thurrock Council’s Recycling Officer), and across October and November we visited 10 schools, reaching more than 2,500 children.

Making Recycling Fun

To keep the children engaged, we devised a fun way for them to learn the basics of what happens to their rubbish and why it’s so important to put things in the right bin. We needn’t have been too worried it turns out – one of the best surprises of the experience was just how passionate the kids were right from the start about protecting their world.

We started out each session with an interactive introduction about recycling, getting the children to answer questions such as ‘what is recycling?’ and ‘why should we recycle?’ – with the forest of hands that sprung up in each school demonstrating the impressive knowledge the kids already had (I don’t think I was thinking about recycling when I was their age!)

Sarah and Lynn teaching pupils about recycling

This was followed by a fun recycling game with them, which involved showing the children pictures of different items and getting them to shout out ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether it was recyclable. Lynn brought relevant recycling bins from the council to sort the pictures into, so the kids not only learned what they could recycle, but were also shown the exact bins that they should be put into.

Finally we explained what happens to all the waste from the school once it has been collected, giving the children a simplified explanation of how our materials recovery facility works and showing them Bywaters’ ‘Secret Life of Rubbish’ video that follows the journey of a single aluminium can through the recycling process.

Creating a Sustainable Tomorrow

Bywaters’ vision is to lead the UK to a sustainable future, and reaching out to local communities in this way is a huge part of the work done by myself and the other Green Gurus. By instilling environmentally-friendly behaviours in the nation’s youth, we can ensure they have the knowledge on how to manage waste sustainably throughout their lives.

I found it very inspiring to see how much the thousands of children we spoke to engaged with our assemblies (I wasn’t 100% sure how groups of primary school children were going to react to spending half an hour talking about rubbish…) and if they take this passion outside of their schools then they can maybe even teach their parents a thing or two!

Changing people’s attitudes to their waste practices is one of the most important aspects of increasing recycling rates, which is why Bywaters holds regular events for ‘grown ups’ such as beach cleans and waste awareness days. But the children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and so it’s fantastic to see them embracing sustainability at such a young age.

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