Youth discuss waste reduction for Net Zero 2030

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During the three day Youth Engineering for Environmental Sustainability Summit (YEESS), 11-13 October 2021, young people across the West of England discussed carbon-emission cutting solutions with experts, before quizzing local politicians on their Climate Action strategies.

There was lots of great discussion worth noting, so we’re reporting each day’s targets, questions and potential solutions in a three-part series.

Day 3: How might we reduce our waste by 65% by 2030?

Waste reduction is a core target mapped into the Bristol and West of England Climate Action Plans, and was a popular talking point amongst the KS4 and KS5 YEESS delegates at the summit on Wednesday 13th October. And Orchard School pupils had lots of great questions for West of England Mayor, Dan Norris, at the livestreamed Q&A session held in person at We The Curious.

What does rubbish have to do with the climate?

Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, who works at the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations, University of Bath, introduced the topic to YEESS delegates.

“Not only are mountains of waste bad for the environment and wildlife, but they’re also linked to increased carbon emissions. How? Well the more stuff we make, transport, and then throw away, the more emissions are wasted in the process. In fact, two thirds of the UK’s emissions come from the physical stuff we buy. We need to fundamentally rethink our throwaway culture.”

How to reduce waste by 65%?

YEESS delegates watched video postcards from engineers leading the way in waste reduction, and then discussed the various ideas presented, including:

Young people filled the online chat with questions on single use products, refill shops, landfill, recycling and retraining workers.

YEESS delegate Fking asked, “Do you think the economy might reach a stop when or if a ban on extracting new raw materials happens and many people lose their jobs due to the ban?”

James Osborne, manager of sustainable aviation projects at CFMS took on this tricky topic – “That’s an interesting point. The same was said about coal mines, and oil workers. But the government can help them to retrain to work in new, greener jobs.”

Another question from Hetty C was – “Do you think recycling and the effect waste can have on climate change is something that should be taught more in schools?

Fidel Olaye, Electronic Engineer at Babcock said, “Definitely! Awareness is really important right from a young age.”

Meanwhile at We The Curious, Year 10 students from Orchard School, Bristol, chatted face to face with inspirational UWE engineer, Dr Deborah Adkins, and came up with ideas like a tax on plastic and incentives to recycle and buy used items.

The West of England’s Climate Action Strategy

At the end of the day Orchard School students were joined by West of England Mayor Dan Norris, who, after being interviewed by various local radio and tv stations, answered pupils questions about the West of England’s Climate Action strategy.

Dan Norris was quizzed by Orchard School pupils at We The Curious

Dan kicked the livestream off by addressing one of the major concerns expressed by YEESS delegates throughout the summit, “One of the things that has been really important for me is that we really recognise that there is a climate emergency and we’ve got to do something about it.”

Savita Willmott, Chief Executive of the Natural History Consortium, chaired the Q&A session with lots of questions surrounding how to educate the public and get everyone onboard with climate action.

The mayor acknowledged that reducing carbon emissions by the 10% required each year to meet Net Zero 2030, was going to be tough. But he was encouraged by the positivity towards climate action he could see in the West of England and told students that their voices were needed to continue to push politicians to make the policy decisions necessary to achieve Net Zero.

Listen to Dan Norris’ Q&A session below:

For YEESS resources, check out Digital Trailblazers site, and to view more of the discussion on the day, take a look at the YEESS website.

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