When Thame resident Keira Booth wanted to recycle the pens her family no longer used, she asked her children’s primary school if she could set up a scheme to recycle used plastic pens.
She had no idea if the idea would take off. All she knew was that she needed to collect a minimum of 15kg of used pens and correction fluid for a recycling firm to take them away, and a donation would be made to the school.
John Hampden Primary School agreed and word spread through the school community. Over the next two months, used pens were left in a box at the school. Soon, she had hit the 15kg target and went on to do better – collecting 17kg to send to TerraCycle, a global waste management company.
Money raised would go towards the school’s new library project. Keira, an administrator at Lord Williams’s School, was happy to have done this well.
Now registered with TerraCycle, she was contacted by the firm asking if she would be interested in collecting empty crisp packets as part of its collaboration with the crisp manufacturer Walkers. She would need to put together a minimum of 3kg in crisp packets for each shipment and again, a donation would be made to the school.
Very soon she had raised the required amount. ‘I thought, this is quite a lot. This is doing well,’ she said.
But then the unexpected happened; contributions really started to arrive. ‘Oh my goodness,’ she said, ‘I really never expected it to take off quite as much as it did!’
That was over two years ago. Since her first boxed shipments of used pens in February 2019 and crisp packets in March 2019, contributions have climbed – even during the pandemic. Now Keira sends boxes of pens two to three times a year to TerraCycle, and a shipment of crisp packets averaging 24 – 25kg in weight, every four to six weeks. It is not just school families who contribute, but local pubs and offices, as well.
‘It’s much more than just the school. They come from all over the place. We have quite a few different people from different places contact us,’ she said. Crisp packets are left in a black bin outside the school office in front of the school and can be dropped off at any time. Keira empties this twice a week. If a contribution from a local business is sizeable, she offers to collect it from their premises.
‘A couple of times a year I put a post on local Facebook groups,’ she said. ‘Any crisp packet will do as long as it’s empty and rinsed out. Most people are brilliant and flatten them and clean them.’
A total of 70,000 crisp packets have so far been donated, weighing around 350kg. This has meant £430 for the school library fund.
Twelve thousand pens and correction fluid have also been sent off – or 120kg – raising £120. Together, Keira has raised nearly £450 for the school.
The crisp packets, pens and correction fluid are broken down and recycled into items including garden furniture, watering cans and waste bins.
‘It’s a win-win, great for the school and great for recycling as it keeps the crisp packets and pens out of landfill,’ she said. ‘There have been so many people collecting for us. It’s fantastic.’
But the scheme comes at a price – of time. Single-handedly, Keira goes through each crisp packet ensuring it is empty and flat and fits up to seven bin bags of crisp packets into each boxed shipment. All this takes her several hours every month to do.
‘Keira has done a brilliant job leading this initiative on behalf of John Hampden School. And as part of Thame Green Living’s Love Thame Hate Waste campaign, we’re looking for opportunities to introduce more schemes like this – utilising Keira’s experience and expertise – to make it as easy as possible for Thame residents to recycle more,’ says Harriet Woollard, of Thame Green Living.
‘We’d love to hear from any individuals, organisations or retailers who’d be willing to support a TerraCycle scheme – either helping to sort or to act as a collection point.’
For more information about Thame Green Living’s Love Thame Hate Waste campaign, please visit: thamegreenliving.org.uk/projects-overview/love-thame-hate-waste
- Crisp packets can be left in the black bin outside John Hampden Primary School’s office.
- Used plastic pens and correction fluid can be put next to the black bin and also left at art shop Glynswood, Thame.
- John Hampden will also take printer cartridges.
- Biscuit and cracker wrappers can also be left in the black bin to go to Long Crendon School for its own recycling scheme.
- Crisp packets can also be left at Thame Tennis Club.