Region's youth parliamentarian on a quest to save the planet

Do you really need to use that plastic straw? What about that third or fourth plastic cup of coffee?

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 11:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 12:10 pm
Alex McDermot in the Houses of Parliament

Up to a quarter of our global plastic ends up polluting our rivers and seas – and that may mean it gets into the fish you eat on a Friday night. Over a million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic. It destroys coral and kills sea mammals. An increasing weight of evidence shows that there is no part of the world free from the threat of plastic pollution.

My name is Alex McDermott, aged 15, and I represent Amber Valley and Chesterfield in the UK Youth Parliament, and I am using my office to campaign on issues of importance to coming generations. Chief of them is work to reduce plastic pollution in the River Derwent. Like a lot of people, I have been motivated by the horrible images shown on BBC’s Blue Planet.

Last year, I launched a campaign in my local area in Derbyshire, “The Last Straw”, which has subsequently been rolled out in 14 constituencies across the country by other MYPs. I have also participated in river clean-ups and worked with the local Green Party to lobby school suppliers, businesses and even the local carnival – where not a single plastic straw was used – to opt for more viable alternatives. In addition, I have launched the “What’SUP with the Derwent” campaign with my brother, Joe, to monitor the micro-plastic levels in the River Derwent, a project backed by the Environment Agency and British Canoeing.

Alex McDermot in the Houses of Parliament

Now looking to the north of England, I hope to be effective by targeting the young people of Yorkshire, to encourage future generations to protect the planet, which will suffer the consequences in future of the plastic pollution today.

Surfers Against Sewage is a Cornwall-based charity, dedicated to cleaner oceans, which has set up a scheme called "Plastic Free Schools". Schools which sign up must complete five objectives through fun, interactive lessons and activities in order to obtain a nationally recognised award from SAS. Resources and assembly templates are provided to the schools to help them along the way, alongside some great support to get them started on their path to becoming plastic free. It's not too arduous but makes a difference.

Currently, I am participating in my Year 10 Work Experience week, working with Dan Jarvis, MP and Sheffield City Region Mayor, as well as staff from the Strategic Corporate Affairs Team of the Sheffield City Region to help roll out this scheme in schools across Yorkshire.

How can you help in your local area? As well as trying to persuade schools to sign up where you live, you can easily adopt the following changes below to reduce your plastic consumption and the plastic consumption of those around you:

1. Stop. Stop using plastic straws for good. If you need a straw, why not try alternatives, such as re-usable metal straws, paper straws, or even bamboo straws!

2. Swap. Swap as many single-use plastic items as you can for more environmentally friendly alternatives. This could be re-usable bottles rather than one-shot plastic; biodegradable or fabric bags as opposed to plastic carrier bags; wooden forks at the chippy; metal cutlery at school.

3. Drop... the hint to other people. Lobby your friends, family, colleagues, and local outlets to do the same. Spread the word: every action makes a difference.

For further information, go to www.sas.org.uk/plastic-free-schools. You can contact me via my www.alexmcdermottmyp.co.uk website.