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North Devon eco champions win Green Flag funding from Viridor

Great Torrington Secondary School has taken first prize in a regional Eco-Schools competition, which took pupils on a 12-week virtual journey around the South West coastline.


The pupils had the chance to explore and connect with their local environment, learn about microplastics and how their choices make a real impact on where they live.


Between May and September, students and their families joined a virtual microplastic beach clean at 36 locations, using the Challenge mobile app as their guide. The app is a complete resource with a range of features, challenge activity sheets and a map of the South West with links to photographs of the beaches and hidden Nurdle trommels – the tool designed in the South West by the not-for-profit start-up Nurdle, to collect microplastics - which are also called nurdles.


Each location presented a different challenge for the pupils. Examining every room in their homes, they were encouraged to rethink their relationship with plastic. Challenges also looked at opportunities outside the home – at school and elsewhere – to think about how to reduce use, reuse as much as possible and then recycle what they use carefully and effectively.


The aim of the Eco-Schools Challenge was to gather evidence for Eco-Schools’ Step 5: Informing and Involving, which would help them in meeting the criteria to achieve their Eco-Schools Green Flag. Great Torrington Secondary School won the grand prize of a £250 donation towards the school’s Green Flag fee, which it received from UK recycling company Viridor.


Viridor Director of Innovation and Regulations Environment & Sustainability, Tim Rotheray, said: “I am delighted that Viridor has had the opportunity to support the Eco-Schools Challenge by funding the development of the Challenge mobile app. We have always encouraged a shift in behaviour towards waste through education because we know that people really want to do the right thing and recycle more. We believe that the competition was a creative and engaging way to inspire young people to begin to think about recycling, using our beautiful South West coastline as a powerful inspiration, Congratulations to all the winners and to Great Torrington Secondary School for its first-place award.


Not only did Great Torrington claim the top prize but three of its students – Rowan (Year 9), Poppy (Year 8) and Harrison (Year 9) shared equal places in the Winning Pupils’ prize category with fellow winning students from Damers First School in Dorset, Dorchester Middle School and St Mark’s Primary School in Somerset. 279 students took part in the competition from 30 Eco-Schools across the South West of England.

Keep Britain Tidy Deputy Chief Executive Richard McIlwain said: “In a decade within which we need to urgently address some of our most pressing environmental problems, its vital that we not only educate young people about the challenges but also drive development of the pro-environmental behaviours required and the Challenge app is a fantastic example of a resource that does both. It’s so important that young people learn about the plastic pollution problem threatening our oceans and I’d like to congratulate the winning students but also all of the schools and students who participated and who now have a chance to put their learning to use in becoming part of the fight back on plastic pollution.”


Harrison was Great Torrington’s first place Winning Pupil who impressed the judges with his entry, which met the competition’s judging criteria to complete the challenges, involve family members and to demonstrate impact. Poppy and Rowan claimed joint second place.


Harrison said: “My parents and I have had a very informative experience with going through and completing this great Eco-Schools challenge. We've loved learning about the different problems and solutions that the world is facing - our eyes have been truly opened. My special thanks to Ocean Recovery Project and Fillosophy Ltd for the prize you kindly offered me.”


Great Torrington Secondary School Head Teacher Andy Bloodworth said: “This was a fantastic achievement by our pupils and their families who embraced this project in lockdown alongside their normal schoolwork. Our pupils did an incredible amount of work for the challenge and we are very proud of their efforts and dedication towards helping to build a more sustainable future.”


Fillosophy Ltd Founder Sylvie Verinder said: “I am immensely grateful to Viridor for sponsoring the Challenge and to the children, their families and teachers for the incredible engagement. It has proven that the right communication can have very positive and measurable environmental impact. I hope that we can now develop it further and make it available to the wider Eco-Schools community.”

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