Photo caption: Students of Room 8 at Whakatāne Intermediate School with their display on plastic bag waste.

The sad story of a whale found in Norway with 30 plastic bags in its stomach has helped motivate Whakatāne Intermediate School students to find out more about reducing plastic bag use.

The Cuvier’s Beaked Whale was euthanized after being found stranded and in a weakened condition, and an autopsy revealed plastic bags and other plastic waste in the digestive system of the animal. After learning of this, students in Room 8 of Whakatāne Intermediate were keen to find out more about reducing plastic waste, particularly single use plastic bags. An online survey of around 100 people yielded some startling results – that locals used about 350 bags a year per person, but that 88% of survey respondents were keen to be plastic-bag free. The students also rang local businesses to assess how many bags were being given out with purchases, and in the case of one retailer this figure was 5000 bags per week. The students also learnt that on average each bag is only used for 12 minutes then thrown away.

Following this, the students began to spread the word amongst their families and friends to say no to plastic bags, and also produced a short video promoting the simple but effective message of using reusable cloth and eco bags for shopping. In addition, students are manufacturing reusable cloth bags in Soft Technology classes for family and friends to use in place of plastic.

Room 8 teacher Tai Miskell says the students have largely led the project themselves. “I’m so proud that the class has worked and learnt together,” he says, “and they also feel really strongly about wanting to see change. Here is a generation of young adults who has seen the negative effects of too much plastic in our environment, but are excited about being part of a future where plastic bags are banned. I really hope we can help to make that happen.”

Whakatāne-Ohope Community Board member Moira Hanna visited the school recently to listen to the students talking about their project, and wanted to share it with the wider community as it aligned with the current Board focus of reducing single-use plastic items. “The whole class was engaged and motivated to share their ideas,” she says. “It was a real honour to spend time with them, and I am keen to get the community to support their message of reducing plastic bag use.”


Photo caption: Students of Room 8 at Whakatāne Intermediate School with their display on plastic bag waste.


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