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‘The Plastic Citizen’ project

  • January 23, 2020
  • By Joanne Popplewell

The Plastic Citizen Project is based within the School of Education here at the University of Hull.

Principal Investigator Professor Kevin Burden and his team – Professor Rudi Wurzel; Ray Kirtley; Dr Charlotte Dean and Dr Fiona James have developed the project with the aim of engaging young people in exploring their perceptions of and researching what they feel are the key issues in the plastics circular economy.
The project involves working with groups of young people in schools and youth groups, in and around the city of Hull to encourage them to look at how they and the world around them interacts with single use plastics, what single-use plastic they use themselves, what they are made of, how some can be harmful and some really useful.

We really aim to encourage the young people to develop a critical inquiry approach to how plastics are viewed, used and disposed of in our society.
Dr Charlotte Dean

We are working with five very different projects, which include an environmental youth work project; a girl guides group; a school for young people who are disengaged from mainstream education and an international council of young people.

The young people are all working on individual research projects which all have the theme of critical inquiry at their core. The groups have been given four criteria around which to design their own research projects. These are that it must:

– Involve carrying out research – may be with other young people, may be local community, school etc.
– Encourage others to use at least one of the 4 Rs – Re-purpose; Reduce, Re-use and Re-cycle single-use plastic.
– Involve digital technology i.e. create an online survey; create an app; use Instagram to log when you have used one of the 4 Rs…

To add an incentive for involvement, we intend to hold a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type event at the university on June 2nd 2020 where the young people would present their ideas and potentially win a prize of £500 for their school/youth project. We are also able to provide a sum of funding to the school/youth project in order to pay for any resources/staff time etc. that may be needed in order to remove any barriers to participation as far as possible.

The projects that each group are working on are very different – for example, one group have designed an app to educate primary school children about the different types of single use plastics. We have created a paid work experience opportunity for two students on the BA Digital Design programme to work with the young people to take the app out of the design stage to create a prototype which will be tested across local primary schools through the Universities Teacher Education programme. Another group are carrying out a Citizen Science research project in St Stephens’s shopping centre through asking members of the public to complete their ‘plastics mission’ created using the Nquire Citizen Inquiry software.
An international comparator study has been led by Prof. Rudi Wurzel, whereby, the research team will visit schools, the local climate council and universities in Bremerhaven to present findings from the UK project and also trial the Nquire Citizen Inquiry software and compare to its use and findings in the UK.

For further information about the project – please contact Charlotte.dean@hull.ac.uk, visit https://www.plasticsinquiry.com/ and on Twitter @plastic_citizen