Schools have been urged to stop using items such as plastic bags, straws, bottles and food packaging in favour of sustainable alternatives with the aim of eliminating the use of single-use plastics on their premises by 2022.

The initiative is being promoted by Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, who has also invited senior leaders in schools to start a conversation with pupils about the effects discarded plastics have on the environment and wildlife.

He has highlighted the example of Georgeham Primary School in Devon, the first school in the UK to achieve single-use plastic free status.

“Reducing our use of plastic clearly is an important and timely issue which has captured the interest and the imagination of everyone in society,” Mr Hinds said. “The leadership shown by schools like Georgeham Primary in going single-use plastic free is an impressive example for us all — and I want work to support every school in the country following their lead by 2022.”

Surfers Against Sewage, a marine conservation charity, said that Georgeham had met five crucial targets including an initial plastic audit of the school and removing at least three items of single-use plastic items throughout the school.

Head Julian Thomas said: “All of our pupils enthusiastically played their part in helping the school reduce excessive single-use plastic consumption. I am confident children across the rest of the country would also welcome the challenge.”

One of the most common uses of single-use plastic are the straws and packaging from the cartons of milk provided to Reception pupils in schools.

After agreeing a deal with its suppliers, Georgeham now has its milk delivered in recyclable containers and the children drink out of washable beakers.

The Education Secretary has asked the Department for Education (DfE) to increase communication with the school supply chain regarding the plastic packaging of milk cartons and other day-to-day supplies for schools.

A briefing paper on single-use plastics can be found at

Last reviewed 9 January 2019