2 August 2018
Headmistress, Mrs Dorothy MacGinty, herself an avid recycler, was appalled by the school’s recent use of plastic bottles at an all-school event: “At our Christmas show at the Perth Concert Hall, we bussed-in over 500 single use water bottles for the girls to drink. The recyling pile was horrifying, and that was just one event!”
Things had to change. Research by the Headmistress threw up some grim statistics: 50% of world-wide plastic is only used once; enough plastic is used every year to circle the earth four times; one million plastic bags are used every minute…the list went on.
“Nobody can single-handedly save the planet,” said the energetic Head, “but single-handedly we can make a difference.” A plan was hatched. “We have 260 girls at our day and boarding school, I was determined to make a difference and to get them to see that they could too.” Morning Chapel speeches were immediately centred around the need for collective environmental responsibility, with props of daily plastic waste bringing home the message.
Plastic cutlery has now been banned. Replaceable-head toothbrushes are being introduced in the boarding houses. Girls must have, or buy, a refillable water bottle; solid – non bottle shampoos – are being encouraged. Plastic carrier bags are as unacceptable as drugs or smoking.
However, the plastic ban penetrates all areas of school life. “I looked around my office and, again, it was like the scales were being lifted from my eyes, I realised just how much we blindly use every day” continued the Head. Laminating has now been axed. “Really, how necessary is that? And Poly Pockets. Hundreds of them. Everywhere. Again. Why?!”
The school’s catering department too has fallen under scrutiny. “My husband and I were recently unloading the weekly shop at home and all I could hear was rustle, rustle as products were unwrapped. We placed the veg beside the pile of enclosing plastic and, guess which pile was bigger?! It got me thinking about the massive use of plastic that our catering department must generate.”
All plastic cutlery has now gone. So have straws, with paper ones – occasionally – being used instead. Veg suppliers have been told to ditch the plastic and pile it into cardboard boxes instead: “It has actually cut down on time as well as plastic as no one needs to spend hours unwrapping each piece,” continues Mrs MacGinty. Next on her petroleum-based war-path was plastic milk bottles. “We’ve changing over to glass bottles. It’s not yet like my childhood, with bottles sitting on the doorstep in the morning, but it feels good to be going back to sensible solutions.”
The girls have embraced change. Upper Fifth former, Carla Rourke is very enthusiastic about developments at the school. “All you see here is greenery; it really makes you think about the planet. If my friends or I see someone with single-use plastic we always have a, (gentle!), go at them.” And the Chapel talks? “Oh yes, it was shocking to see the waste from just one weekly shopping. It really brought it home to all of us.”
Look out plastic, Kilgraston’s onto you.