Plastic pays back at Stow Primary School

Stow Primary School is the first in Scotland to welcome the reverse vending machine.
Stow Primary School is the first in Scotland to welcome the reverse vending machine.

A Borders school is the first in the country to test out a reverse vending machine for the return of used plastic drinks bottles.

Stow Primary School, recently awarded a £1,000 grant to educate its community on the importance of recycling and change attitudes towards single-use plastic, was the first school in Scotland to test out the machine last week.

Stow Primary School is the first in Scotland to welcome the reverse vending machine.

Stow Primary School is the first in Scotland to welcome the reverse vending machine.

The machine, created by East Kilbride-based Excel Vending, has a 360-degree recognition system, so it can pick up the barcode, material, size and dimensions of bottles before crushing, compacting and dropping them into a bag at the bottom capable of collecting 400 bottles.

Last Wednesday’s visit follows months of hard work by the 78-pupil school on projects aimed at encouraging villagers to make small changes to how they deal with their recyclables as part of the Hunter Foundation’s 100 Disrupters scheme.

Primary 4/5 successfully secured funding from the parent council to buy litter pickers and re-usable water bottles and to swap the canteen’s plastic spoons for metal ones.

Primary 6/7 meanwhile is lobbying NHS Borders to provide recyclable bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones, primary 2/3 spoke to Stow councillors Sandy Aitchison encouraging him to share their progress with other schools in the region and primary one has been learning about the dangers of plastic straws and bags.

Headteacher Debbie Matthewson said: “One of the classes applied for a grant from the Hunter Foundation on the basis that if we were succesful, we would hold an event in Stow that would education and disrupt the locals with what they do with their recyclables.

“By sharing the small steps we have recently introduced at school, we believe we can get people on board to actively reduce their use of plastic.

“Our whole school has been looking at sustainability, and collectively we have been working to make small changes that will make a big difference to all.”

The Scottish Government announced in September last year that it would bring in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and has launched a consultation on the issue.

“This was just a demo, but if the country agrees, these machines will be in supermakets across the country,” Debbie added. “It was quite an exciting day for the kids as when the machine was opened and the bottles gone, they thought it was like magic.”

The school’s forthcoming event, aimed at showcasing what pupils have learnt, will take place in Stow Town Hall on Thursday, September 13, from 6pm to 7.30pm and Friday, September 14, from 10am to noon.

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