The International School of Gabon Ruban Vert

Transforming plastic…The beginning

We are delighted to share a blog written by student Ge, from The International School of Gabon Ruban Vert, who is part of a team delivering a Global Goals project for the 2021-22 GSL Global Goals Competition.

Their project is among over 957 social action projects currently running as part of the GSL movement and we are excited to be supporting them to design and lead positive social change in their community!

We feel that we are beginning to fulfil our responsibility as inhabitants of this planet by taking small steps towards sustainable development and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

Project Summary

Precious plastic is a small student-led social enterprise that aims to help the environment by upcycling waste plastic bottle caps to make jewellery and keychains. We have discovered that our local community and especially our beaches, are littered with waste materials, especially plastic bottles. These ultimately end up in the ocean and threaten marine life.

Previously, in a much larger team, our first endeavour towards waste management was helping to create a greenhouse. Not an ordinary greenhouse – one completely built off of discarded plastic bottles. A fully working greenhouse that we could use to teach the younger students about how to grow and care for fruit and vegetables.

From that experience, we realised that we didn’t need all of the plastic bottle caps. Some we made into a mural, others the Early years students used for Art. However, we thought about how we can use these bottle caps on a regular basis. Thinking carefully and researching patiently about what we could do to recycle them, we had an idea. An idea to start a social enterprise whereby we would use these plastic caps and collect other bottles by returning to clean our local beaches, saving the turtles and other wildlife in the process and run a school-wide collection drive to produce and sell recycled plastic items such as earrings, coasters and keychains.

The process is to melt the caps in a panini maker (ensuring the type of cap can be recycled), cut out the shapes we like, attach them to earring hooks, chains or keychains, and sell them. Then, we will use the profits to support causes that we, as a team, identify with or to educate people about plastic waste and our project.

Our goal is simple: To protect our environment and take the responsibility to safeguard it whilst raising awareness about the issue of plastic waste. We want to highlight how it is not just on a local scale but an international scale and we all, wherever we are, can help eliminate this pollutant.

The Journey

We have not yet been able to get our project in full swing because of several factors including Covid-19. At the moment, we are in the preparation stage, having investigated what we want to do and how we can do it. We have prepared our approval forms, risk assessments, equipment lists and obtained most of our material through donations including earring hooks and chapati makers, which aren’t available in our country. Now, we have conducted two beach clean-ups and have started our trial runs.

Since the beginning of this project, we have developed many skills such as collaboration and creativity. We have learnt how to work together and how to resolve issues such as sourcing equipment and figuring out the most efficient way to do something as a team. It has been very enlightening as it has developed skills in us, it has shown us our capacity to work together and to be able to make decisions together.

Our biggest challenge now is awareness. We have to, very effectively, educate our community about the gravity of the environmental impact created by plastic waste and to inspire them to minimise the garbage they create. Awareness will also help people understand the value of our product and instead of taking it lightly, people will be more likely to consider purchasing our product, which will help fuel the causes we support and contribute to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

The Next Chapter

We believe that making jewellery out of plastic will help the environment and promote a more sustainable way of living. We are hoping that people will like what we make, purchase it and will reorder our jewellery and other products made by recycling plastic.

In the future, we would recommend other people to take on a similar project as us because at the end of the day, it reduces plastic waste, helps our planet and is a very enriching experience. When people will step out to collect waste plastic, they will realise how every bit of plastic counts and will be able to better understand the quantity of plastic we use and throw every day. This is our ultimate goal – for people to realise how much plastic humans use and for them to take actions, big or small, to minimise this. They could decide to switch the single-use plastic they use to other materials, conduct clean ups, or run an awareness campaign about recycling, reusing and reducing.

We have a saying in our school that anyone can “be the change” and it is true. We all have the ability – but we need to start somewhere.