Inspired by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and as part of its ambitious Sustainability Road Map, the British School of Bahrain has sought to galvanise its community of staff, students and parents to conserve the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (UN Sustainable Development Goal No.14), while at the same time improving education to ensure sustainable consumption (UN Sustainable Development Goal No.12).
The British School of Bahrain launched its Big Community Beach Clean in September 2020. Every week, a large group of volunteers made up of students, parents, staff, and community members meet at one of Bahrain’s many beaches and spend two hours cleaning the coastal environment by removing all litter. Since its first inception, the project has grown considerably. On many weekends, we have boasted over 90 volunteers of all ages and nationalities are represented in this inclusive and diverse group.
Following community consultation and engagement, the initiative focused on a particular set of islands called Nurana. The focus on this area, coupled with collaboration with local government initiatives has led to a rapid improvement of the coastal environment. There is something inspiring about removing plastic pollution with flocks of wild Flamingoes and Cormorants feeding just off-shore.
The British School of Bahrain has forged a collaborative partnership with Bahrain’s Evolve Concrete. All rubbish collected from Bahraini beaches is sorted by the volunteers into hard plastics and general waste. The hard plastics are taken by BPC to their recycling plant and processed into fine plastic pellets. These plastics were added to liquid concrete to boost its volume and reduce its weight. The concrete and plastic mix is cast into outdoor furniture and sculptures. BPC then donate these outdoor seats and sculptures to local communities. In this way, the plastic pollution actually returns to where it is collected and is transformed into something useful for the local people. Through this furniture, there is a daily reminder to all students and staff of the impact their lives can have on the local environment. Through this furniture across Bahrain, there is regular education about both the need to conserve the oceans and seas (UN Sustainable Development Goal No.14) and to improve education about sustainable consumption (UN Sustainable Development Goal No.12). The next phase of the long-established project is to continue to attract more and more members of the local community and through their efforts create more pieces of furniture which are then donated to local beaches and communities.
Through the BSB Big Community Beach Clean programme, students across Bahrain continue to learn a considerable amount of information about the coastal environment and the impact that plastic waste can have on the local ecosystem. At the British School of Bahrain, this has led the school’s environmental committees to drive through new initiatives to reduce plastic pollution within the school. Furthermore, the BSB community beach cleaning team are regularly joined by local community children to learn about the need to protect the environment. On one occasion, the Community Beach Cleaning Team freed a turtle from plastic, which was a fitting reminder of the impact our society can have on local Bahraini wildlife.
The seeds of change, planted by the BSB Big Community Beach Clean has led to a transformation of the British School of Bahrain’s approach to environmental matters. The programme has provided a focal point of energy for the school’s student-led Environmental Committees. These have made significant and lasting changes to the school through the creation of our first Environmental Impact Policy and Strategic Development Plan. Each project is designed to improve education to ensure sustainable consumption (UN Sustainable Development Goal No.12). The students identified the most common plastic pollution found during BSB Big Community Beach Clean-ups and educated all students to limit the use of these. For example, single-use plastics, especially water bottles. The student-led initiatives have been diverse and innovative, with ideas ranging from the use of recyclable materials in all drama productions to the banning of balloons on the campus and the installation of solar panels on all roof spaces.
The initiative, designed specifically to be simple and therefore replicated, has been shared with 80 schools around the world, who are now forging similar partnerships with local companies and local communities. The transferable nature of the project has led to schools, away from coastlines, adapting the initiative to suit parkland and semi-arid environments. There are five key components which can be replicated to any community around the world:
- Engage the local community to generate volunteers.
- Actively clean the local habitat and separate hard plastics from general waste.
- Forge partnerships with local companies to enable the recycling of hard plastics into furniture.
- Return the recycled furniture to the local community, showing the benefit of habitat protection and allowing more people to enjoy the environment.
- Use the project as the catalyst to increase education of UN Sustainable Development Goals and the need to protect the environment.