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School children in the Highlands lead way with initiatives to reduce plastic pollution, report says

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A new Highland Council report reveals school children in the region are leading the way with initiatives to reduce plastic waste.

The report, currently before councillors to consider next week, singles out schools for their efforts in reducing plastic pollution.

Sixth year pupil Emily McCloskey from Glen Urquhart High school secured funds from her local ward budget to buy all 200 pupils reusable drinks bottles, banishing plastic bottles from the site.

And pupils from Ullapool Primary School campaigned successfully for all 14 cafes, bars and restaurants in the village to be free of straws.

Thanks to the young pioneers, Ullapool is thought to be the first UK village to ban the use of plastic straws in bars, restaurants and cafes.

A pilot is underway in Lochaber High School to use biodegradable products in the catering department, with pupils charged 5p per takeaway carton.

Although the products cost £600 per year more, the council says it has coped with the policy within its catering budget, but warns it may not be able to do this if all 29 secondary schools were to follow suit.

The report, prepared by the council’s climate change coordinator Heidi De Haas, also outlines the council’s aspirations to go the extra mile to phase out single use plastic (SUP) from its sites, schools and the wider region.

A cross-party group is proposed, chaired by Culloden and Ardersier councillor Trish Robertson, to create a strategy to go beyond legal requirements in phasing it out.

She said: “This is something the council cannot do alone and we need to work closely with our staff, our partners and our communities to support a strategy for protecting our environment into the future.”

Small steps have already been made in council headquarters with staff and councillors encouraged to bring in their own reusable cups, bottles, cutlery and crockery.

The council also has around 70 volunteer ‘eco-officers’ drawn from its own staff across the region to promote environmental themes such as greater energy and transport efficiency across the organisation.

The council recently committed to building a new waste management facility by 2021 to process non-recyclable waste and recover as much recyclable material as possible.

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