Students lead way in tackling sea plastic

September 7th, 2022 9:30 AM

By Jackie Keogh

A group of 12 students in Schull, including Marcus Adams, worked to re-purpose a sailing dinghy and created a table and chairs as part of their work with the organisation, the Oceans Plastic Project.

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THE Oceans Plastic Project, spearheaded by Rory Jackson of Tragumna, was recently selected to be part of a charity partnership with a hotel in Cork city that donated €1 for every cocktail drank towards his not-for-profit environmental programme.

The River Lee Hotel selected the Oceans Plastic Project to be the beneficiary because of its highly progressive educational programme.

They were inspired by the charity’s research of microplastics in the waters off West Cork, as well as the work it does to raise awareness of plastic pollution generally.

Rory’s organisation works with local secondary schools to host clean-up days, but also to use their research to lobby local
government and industry to put a stop to pollution.

Rory said that all of the money raised from the Cork initiative will be used to carry out a drinks campaign, something that will hopefully encourage people to stop using single-use plastic and bring their own water bottles and carry cups instead.

As part of the partnership, Rory was invited to give a talk on the work he is doing with five schools in West Cork.

Rory’s work with schools in Beara, Bantry, Schull, Skibbereen and Rosscarbery yielded some interesting results, and the number of schools signing up to get involved is increasing all the time.

Rory said he and the students ‘work as a team’ to do the research of micro and general plastic waste, but an important part of the work they do is to find ways to use and upcycle products that are at the end of their use.

‘Schull, for example, has a sailing school, which is an important part of their school curriculum,’ said Rory. ‘A feature of that programme is that sailing dinghies become obsolete, so we decided to upcycle a dinghy that was slated to go to the skip.’

The students turned it into a seating area – with two long chairs and a table – which will be located in the school’s courtyard as part of its 40th anniversary celebrations in September.

There was a team of 12 involved in the project. It was a follow on from the work the students did on the beaches. And it was the students who devised the design and did all the work on creating the new amenity.

‘What was interesting about the project is that the students took full charge of it and directed each step,’ said Rory. ‘It wasn’t a case of me leading and telling them what to do. That’s what makes projects like this special – there is ownership of it right from the start.’

As part of the project, the students entered an ECO-UNESCO competition where they competed against 250 other schools and reached the finals earlier this month.

‘It was great recognition of the work they did on this project,’ said Rory, ‘and who knows it might have inspired some of them to consider a career in environmental projection.’

Meanwhile, in Skibbereen, at the local community school, the students got involved in an Oceans Plastic Project in collaboration with Cycle Sense to up-cycle bicycles.

Seven students from the team of 25 chose to work on the upcycling of bicycles, said Rory. They stripped old bicycles into bits and pieces, an exercise that taught them what parts were salvageable, which is an important consideration in terms of the reduce, reuse and recycle ethos.

A second Skibbereen project saw the students strip disused bicycles and use the parts to rebuild – and repaint – two ‘new’ bikes.

The first bike, which is suitable for a four-year-old, and the second, which is suitable for a teenager, are to be donated to two Ukrainian children living locally.

Skibbereen guidance counsellor Cormac O’Brien – who brought medical and war relief supplies to Poland – will have the honour of selecting the two recipients.

‘That,’ said Rory, ‘will be a nice conclusion to a worthwhile project.’

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