Village bans plastic straws after school campaign

By: Catherine Gemmell
Date posted: 21 December 2017

It was fantastic to hear from our Cool Seas Explorers at Sunnyside Primary that their amazing #NaeStrawAtAw campaign has succeeded in making Ullapool potentially the first plastic straw free village in the UK!

The amazing classes of Primary 7s at Sunnyside for years from writing their own MPA consultation responses to taking part in MCS projects such as beach cleans and turtle workshops to MSP letter writing. Once you are a Primary 7 at Sunnyside you become an ‘Ocean Defender’ and they have done some incredible things over the years and this campaign success demonstrates the power of the pupils in creating change for our seas, shores and wildlife!

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I first got to know the amazing Ocean Defenders back in 2016 when I went along to their school to deliver a Turtles in Trouble workshop looking at the impacts litter is having on sea creatures such as the incredible Leatherback Turtle who visits Scotland every summer to eat our jellyfish!

We then worked with the Ocean Defenders on what they could do to help creatures like the leather back turtle and they suggested taking part in our Beachwatch Project. They went about organising contacting their local beaches council, making posters and even writing a press release for the event!

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It was then on the 19th of May 2016 that we met on Prestwick South beach to do a beach clean and litter survey. A blustery day with the Ocean Defenders on Prestwick South Beach!

The 52 Ocean Defenders picked up 4 bags of rubbish weighing 8 kilos and even more importantly they wrote it all down on our survey sheets so it could be input into our marine litter database which we use to ask for change in policy.

Since then the Ocean Defenders along with their important data helped with the Have You Got The Bottle campaign by writing to their MSPs about why the Scottish Government should put in place a deposit return system to help the marine environment. We therefore all delighted when in September this year the Scottish Government announced that they would be designing and implementing a deposit return system!

It seems like there is nothing this amazing team of Ocean Defenders can not do with this year marking the first year of their #NaeStrawAtAw campaign asking local businesses and food outlets to swap plastic straws for either paper or reusable options.

They started their campaign up in Ullapool on a school trip to visit the local Primary School and to work with our friends at the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Since then both schools have been working over the year to go into as many local restaurants, cafes and hotels both in Ullapool and Glasgow to sign up as many people as possible to the #NaeStrawAtAw campaign.

With the amazing news that Ullapool has now gone Plastic Straw free thanks to the work of these schools with support from Noel Hawkins the Living Seas Officer with the Scottish Wildlife Trust we can not wait to see what they do next!

With next year celebrating the Year of Young People in Scotland we believe that Scotlands seas are in good hands and if we work with our young Ocean Defenders we will all be able to help stop the plastic tide.

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.