A primary school in South East Northumberland has joined the mission to save the planet, one piece of plastic at a time.

Bothal Primary School in Ashington has launched an ambitious new campaign to reduce the amount of plastic waste the school produces and educate others about the importance of recycling after being inspired by the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign.

Led by the teaching staff, pupils have been participating in a number of activities both in school and in the local community to kick-start the 18-month long campaign.

The school, which forms part of the Ashington Learning Partnership (ALP) Trust, is hoping that its efforts will enable the school to qualify for the internationally recognised Eco Schools Bronze level award.

“We are really excited about this new project,” said Paul Mordue, director at outdoor education consultancy, Wild About Adventure, who has been leading on the project.

“A lack of awareness over the years about the dangers of plastic to the environment means that our planet is now drowning in it. By educating the children from an early age about how to recycle correctly and what they can do with items that can’t be recycled, we are actively doing our bit to ensure that our planet is here for many more years to come.

“As part of the project, we have been taking groups of children to nearby Newbiggin beach to take part in beach cleans, collecting plastic waste which has been washed up on the shore. We have also instated a new dedicated Eco Council who will be responsible for enforcing the new recycling rules we are going to put in place over the course of the school year.”

In a recent survey conducted by the school’s Eco Council, results showed that at present, only 10 per cent of the school’s waste is properly recycled. Through the new initiative, the school is aiming to flip this on its head and recycle up to 90 per cent of its waste, including paper, plastics and even food waste, dramatically reducing the amount it sends to landfill.

The first phase of the project, which was launched in a special all-school assembly which was also attended by local councillors, will see recycling bins placed in the school’s lunch hall for collecting single-use plastics. The second phase will see this extended to all of the school’s classrooms in the New Year.

To help illustrate the scale of the plastics problem, during the assembly, the children were presented with a giant plastic sea turtle which had been constructed out of the plastic waste collected by the pupils who took part in the beach cleans.

“In total, we removed over 120 bin liners full of plastic waste from just one third of Newbiggin beach,” Paul said.

“We collected hundreds of plastic bottles, plastic bags, food packaging and even stranger items such as television remote controls and brought them back to the school for sorting.

“Using some of the items, we decided to create a piece of artwork which would serve as a lasting reminder of what we are trying to achieve through this project and why recycling is so important and so, now we have Tallulah the sea turtle!”

Every year, it is estimated that over eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans. In Europe, over 40 per cent of plastic items are single-use, which is adding considerably to the plastic crisis.

Councillor Malcolm Peden, Mayor of Newbiggin, added: “I would just like to extend my thanks to all of the children at Bothal Primary School for the fantastic work they have done to help clean up Newbiggin beach.

“It is absolutely astonishing to see how much waste can be collected from just one area of one beach. If you multiply this by all of the beaches in the region, that adds up to a lot of plastic!

“Looking at the sea turtle the children have created, there are pieces of plastic on its shell that I recognise from my days working in the region’s coal mines. Given that the last of the mines closed over 30 years ago, it is shocking to think that this plastic waste is still floating in our oceans to this day.”

Bothal Primary School plans to roll its eco project out to all of the other Ashington Learning Partnership Trust sites in the New Year.