13 years on, young eco-warriors hail recycling success

Seagulls scavenging on landfill. New recycling laws on glass bottles owe much to the campaign of two Cumbernauld schoolgirls
Seagulls scavenging on landfill. New recycling laws on glass bottles owe much to the campaign of two Cumbernauld schoolgirls
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When two eco-conscious pupils from Cumbernauld presented a list of signatures to MSPs in 2006, it marked the first time a primary school had lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament.

At the time the schoolgirls could only imagine the outcome of their action, which called for the introduction of a national deposit-return system (DRS) to combat littering.

But now, 13 years on, they are delighted their calls have been heeded, with Scotland’s new recycling scheme due by spring 2021.

Chantelle Irvine (inset, below) was just 11 when she and 12-year-old Amy Laird (inset, above) took the petition to Holyrood.

They were inspired to start the campaign after Irvine’s pet dogs were repeatedly cut by broken glass littering the streets around her home.

Irvine currently works for a dairy company and is a singer in her spare time. She still has one of the dogs – Kiearra, a labrador-collie cross, now 16.

She said: “We got a school visit from a woman from the Scottish Parliament and she was telling us about petitions, explaining what they were and how they were useful for the public. So the class was giving some ideas on issues that could be raised in a petition.

“Our idea was that alcohol and beverages could be in plastic instead of glass because where I lived at the time all the older kids who were drinking were always smashing their Buckfast bottles and stuff like that.

“I had two dogs that used to get their paws cut on the glass quite a lot, and I was just saying it would help wildlife and other animals, from harming themselves on glass.

“That was my reasoning and the logic behind it. Obviously back then there was nothing really being said about plastic but now we know it harms sealife and stuff, so the new DRS is a great idea,”

In 2017 Scotland became the first nation in the UK to commit to a DRS for bottles and cans. The scheme will include PET plastic and glass bottles as well as steel and aluminium drinks cans, with a refundable deposit of 20p each. It aims to capture 90 per cent of drinks containers for recycling within three years.

Laird is now 25 and working as a teacher in Glasgow.

She said: “There’s litter everywhere in Scotland, including lots of cans and plastic and glass bottles.

“Other countries around the world charge a small deposit so people bring them back, and it really works.

“The answer was obvious to us back in primary school, so we’re really pleased that Scotland will now have the UK’s first proper deposit-return system.”

The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland set up the campaign Have You Got the Bottle? in 2015.

Director John Mayhew likened the schoolgirls to Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and the global youth climate strike movement.

He said: “Back in 2006 the Woodlands Primary School pupils were setting the pace here in Scotland.

“Starting with an everyday story of a dog with a cut paw, they saw the big picture, and took the brave step to come to Parliament in person and make the case.