Attention Teachers and Students! Leave those plastics alone!

It’s time to get back to school, and we’re going to make it fun! This school year, Surfrider Vancouver Island, is urging schools and their communities around the world to take part in the Back to School Plastic Challenge. Go to the Clean Seas website to download ideas. Our campaign is ongoing, and the deadlines given by Clean Seas only refers to their competition, not the Single-use Plastic Free Schools certification.


  • Ask your school to stop using single-use plastic items in the cafeteria.
  • Talk to your local politicians about what they can do to reduce the single-use plastic footprint of your community.
  • Educate your friends and family about marine plastic pollution.


  • Download the education pack and use it with your students.
  • Work with the school administration to see how your school can reduce its plastic footprint.
  • Participate in a beach clean-up together with your students.


  • Avoid plastic items when buying back-to-school supplies for your kids.
  • Do not use plastic for wrapping your kid’s lunch. Use paper instead or buy a lunch box!
  • Insist that PTA meetings and other school functions be plastic-free.



Plastic is a valuable material and it has revolutionised medical care, and made many other facets of modern life possible. But the very features of plastic that makes it so convenient and cheap, also makes it so pervasive, resulting in plastic marine litter being one of the most serious threats faced by humanity. With predictions that plastic in the oceans will outnumber fish by 2050, significant changes in the way we use and dispose of plastics must happen now. It is a generational problem since many types of plastics take hundreds of years to degrade.

The majority of single-use plastics are thrown away within a few minutes of use, and plastic packaging accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste globally. When plastics enter aquatic ecosystems, there can be devastating consequences such as killing seabirds and mammals when ingested, and breaking up into microplastics which release toxins. When these enter food chains they are ingested by plankton and filter feeders, and are biomagnified up the food chains killing sea life and causing human health problems.

It is essential that the users of single use plastics fully understand the problems, and are willing to change their behaviours and become part of the solution.


Rise Above Plastics Vision “Be the change we want to see in the world”. The Single-Use Plastic Free Schools program aims to eliminate single-use plastics in the school setting. By role modelling sustainable practices and providing alternatives, teachers and students will influence their local and global communities.

You’re not in this alone. Surfrider can help! Just get in touch with the Single-Use Plastic Free Schools campaign manager Margaret McCullough and she’ll walk you through the process.

The Case for Reform: British Columbia Must Regulate Single-Use Plastics

A UVic Environmental Law Centre Clinic report prepared for: Kids for a Plastic Free Canada.

PDF Download

Children's Book: Ocean Champions: A Journey into Seas of Plastic

Ocean Champions teaches about the devastating impacts that plastic debris in our oceans is having on marine life, to raise awareness in youth, teachers, and families, and others, and inspire positive actions to reduce the amount of plastic that is entering our oceans. For young students, the story also contributes to the development of social responsibility, critical thinking, and communication. The website contains additional information including teaching aids with activities. Anytime a teacher orders a book, they will also receive the link to the digital flipbook to use in their classroom along with their physical book.

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Single-Use Plastics Report

The benefits of plastic are undeniable. The material is cheap, lightweight and easy to make. These qualities have led to a boom in the production of plastic over the past century. This trend will continue as global plastic production skyrockets over the next 10 to 15 years. We are already unable to cope with the amount of plastic waste we generate, unless we rethink the way we manufacture, use and manage plastics. Ultimately, tackling one of the biggest environmental scourges of our time will require governments to regulate, businesses to innovate and individuals to act.

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Ocean Wise Plastic Education Resources for Teachers

The Ocean Wise has produced a detailed set of resources for teachers of Elementary, Middle and High Schools to get your classroom started with your single-use plastic free challenge today.

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Action plan for the reduction and phasing out of single use plastics in a municipality

Using the “Ban The Bag” campaign as an example. This document shows how to plan and execute a plastic ban campaign in a city or town, and can be used as a guideline for any single-use plastic ban.

PDF Download

Seven Reforms to Address Marine Plastic Pollution

A document created by the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre outlining 7 key recommendations to address the growing marine plastic problem.

PDF Download

Report on Compostable and Biodegradable Plastics

Learn the differences between the different types of alternative plastics, and why some can be problematic.

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Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet

Despite being one of the most pervasive materials on the planet, plastic and its impact on human health is poorly understood. Human exposure to it grows with increasing plastic production and use. Research into the human health impacts of plastic to date have focused narrowly on specific moments in the plastic lifecycle, from wellhead to refinery, from store shelves to human bodies, and from disposal to ongoing impacts as air pollutants and ocean plastic. Individually, each stage of the plastic lifecycle poses significant risks to human health. Together, the lifecycle impacts of plastic paint an unequivocally toxic picture: plastic threatens human health on a global scale.

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UN Report on Microplastics

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter. In the last four decades, concentrations of these particles appear to have increased significantly in the surface waters of the ocean. Concern about the potential impact of microplastics in the marine environment has gathered momentum during the past few years. The number of scientific investigations has increased, along with public interest and pressure on decision- makers to respond.

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Since December of 2018, Students continue to work with SFVI and with our municipal and provincial representatives on concrete plans for change, and have partnered with the UVic Environmental Law department on a document of legal recommendations for the BC provincial government in regard to limiting the distribution and further creation of single use plastics, with a focus on how to create a sustainable provincial economy for our future generations.

Since early January 2019, Grade 5 students spoke up against single use plastics and worked alongside the administration of their school to implement plastic reduction strategies. These passionate young leaders also met with the Oak Bay Council directly in regard to supporting a ban on single use plastics. In March, they turned their attention to igniting change in their neighborhood, conducting in-person business outreach along Estevan and Oak Bay Avenue, and presenting to the Oak Bay community association about their intended vision for the community in regard to the elimination of single use plastics in their entirety. While the Grade 5’s took their work to the streets, other students presented the Plastic Free Schools B.C. programme to the BC Ministry of Education. This is a comprehensive set of guidelines incentivising schools to not only teach the importance of plastic reduction but work on eliminating single use plastics in their entirety.

In April 2019, Students gave  workshops and a keynote speaker address at the Victoria STEM Conference at Saint Margaret’s School, where they advocated for the importance of small changes in daily habits. This inspired kids from around the nation to know that they too could make a difference.  Students also gave presentations to schools in the Victoria area, such as Shoreline Middle School to kickstart their plastic free initiative, and they were featured with an interview in Focus magazine. Shortly after this, Shoreline Middle School ran their own beach cleanup as a part of their plastic free school action in early May.

The beginning of the summer 2019 was only the start of more achievements for students. Early on, they met with lawmakers to discuss reduction strategies for single use plastics. On June 8th, 2019, Ocean Day Beach Cleanup was held in Stanley Park, Vancouver, bringing out multiple supporters from all regions of the mainland as well as some news organizations and environmentally conscious corporate sponsors. Shortly after, grade 5 students presented to Victoria City Council and asked them to include all single use plastics in their proposed ban. Students created a manual on how to get started with activism for youth interested in helping their communities ban single use plastics. Later that summer they met with BC lawmakers once more to speak about single use plastics and request action on the issue.

As the school year began again, the students continued their work with local schools in developing their single use plastic reduction strategies. On October 5th, 2019, with the help of UVic Environmental Law, students came together to present a document of provincial recommendations for action on the single  plastic problem. The group met directly with government representatives to state the case for finally banning single use plastics.

The end of the year came to a few heartening conclusions, as Anastasia was invited to be a guest speaker at the Ecostar awards ceremony for her dedicated work on solving the single use plastics problem. The GNS Grade 5 group joined Surfrider to take direct action on plastic pellet spills in Vancouver, thus initiating yet another ambitious goal for these young leaders.

Anastasia Castro and Char Brady were awarded the 2019 BC Good Citizenship Medal for their dedicated and crucial work on reducing single use plastics problem.

How to become a Certified Single-use plastic free school?

Criteria for becoming Certified

1 – Take the Pledge HERE

2 – Keep a record/timeline of what your school has done to become single-use plastic free. This could be in video format, slideshow, or written format with pictures.

3 – Take pictures of the students participating and include these.

4 – Send your progress report to Margaret McCullough:

Project Lead

Margaret McCullough - Campaign Manager