New job for Mark – saving the planet (ish..)

Some of you have been asking what it is Mark is doing and where is he working.

Well it is not hush hush, so not James Bond style, saving the world against Dr Evil or anything like that, but it is nearly as exciting.

Mark now works as the Estates Director for Westcountry Schools Trust, which is a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) with 13 schools. There was no previous Estates Director, so Mark has a clean slate to develop a corporate approach to Estates across the schools.


One of Mark’s first projects came from a science teacher who is very keen on sustainability – now we’re talking!!  Thom (science teacher and Nick the science technician) runs an Eco club for pupils at Ivybridge Community College (ICC) (one of the 13 schools in the MAT).


Thom spoke with Devon County Council (DCC) who put him in touch with Resource Futures who are funded by DCC to improve sustainability in schools. There was a meeting and discussion held, it was soon clear that ICC did not really do recycling, other than teachers recycling for themselves.

It was agreed an audit was required to fully understand the waste ICC produces. So all the bins had to be emptied at the end of one day. Then the next day all the bins were collected and stored in a room, all the bags were weighed to understand the total waste, along with the recycling which was also weighed.

With the help of the Eco club, Thom’s year 7 science classes on that day and volunteers (Mark being one of them) the waste was then handpicked and separated into lots of different waste streams, such as plastic bottles, other plastics, papers, food etc and each waste stream was then weighed. This would tell us in an idea world if everything was recycled correctly, the schools overall recycling rate. Needless to say in the real world we will not achieve this as the school cannot have 12 different waste bins at every location where there is a bin.

Some of the pupil got straight in and handpicked, using gloves of course, others need to be encouraged to the point where an adult would put the waste in their hand and say ‘in that bin please’ some even tried to sneak out the door. Do they not know how much fun they were missing out on?!

During the audit the pupils called Mark “Sir” – not something he is used to. He is certainly not getting that at home!

The initial figures from the audit was that the schools produced 369kg of waste in one day of which only 27% was recycled, which is pretty good as a purely voluntary option. Not all the figures are in from the audit, but Mark is writing the new strategy and once the figure are available the solution and implementation can be completed.

Initial thoughts are that the number of bin locations will be reduced with each location having a few bins clearly labelled for recycling, food waste in the kitchen is a key one. Bins will be removed from offices and most class rooms. There will be talks at assemblies and leadership talks on the audit results and looking to having the entire school engaged. With the year 7 being involved who are at the beginning of their time at ICC, there is a hope that in 5 years the entire culture of the school will change and be le


d by these students.

Another factor was the amount of non-recyclable packaging from the catering contractor. It was also noted that the plastic spoons are actually bio-degradable, but when this was researched the environment had to be 70 degrees C for a period of time for the degrading to take place, this is not practical. We all need to be aware of the factors of the small print, where the truth is hidden. Wooden forks is the much preferred solution.

Mark is also looking to roll the strategy and process out across the remaining 12 schools, so the impact can be quite significant.

In July 2019 another audit will take place this will then measure the improvement of the strategy.

Waste Management was initially part of Mark’s brief but with other factors was initially not a high priority, however due to the enthusiasm of school staff such as Thom and Nick it was clear action was needed before the enthusiasm waned leaving it difficult to get future engagement. It has been true team works across various departments across the school.

See I did tell you it was just as exciting as being a real life James Bond!

Published by ouryearoflivingsustainably

We live in Plymouth in Devon and this Christmas 2017-8 our family has been watching Blue Planet II endlessly! Our New Year's resolution for 2018 is to take better care of our environment and to live more sustainably. We are using a blog to remember our journey and maybe share with others what we have learnt along the way.

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