No parent wants to be a killjoy, but it’s time party bags were banned

One Change: There’s so much rubbish at kid’s parties – but there are more sustainable alternatives

The Party Bag Busters at St Clare’s Primary School meeting pupils from Coláiste Bríde. Photograph:  @Colaistebride/Twitter

The Party Bag Busters at St Clare’s Primary School meeting pupils from Coláiste Bríde. Photograph: @Colaistebride/Twitter

 

I’d been thinking about writing a column on children’s parties and sustainability for a good while but kept putting it off. Making personal changes for the environment can be challenging enough in our daily lives, but when it comes to special events like birthdays, it’s hard not to seem like a bit of a killjoy going on about waste and plastics. And nobody wants to be the mean parent.

But it’s impossible not to notice the amount of rubbish that’s left after parties – from balloons to disposable plates, straws, paper tablecloths and plastic happy birthday signs. Almost all the “stuff” in party zones of shops has been designed to make life as easy – and throwaway – for organisers. The large foil balloon that my daughter wanted – and got – for her fifth birthday, for example, will probably long outlive her, wilting in landfill.

Thankfully, more sustainable alternatives have come on the market recently, including compostable paper plates and straws, and reusable cloth bunting. (PlanetSustie.ie is an online shop that has plenty of great ideas for all kinds of parties and events.)

But party bags? Most children seem to regard these going-away gifts of jellies and miniature toys as some sort of fundamental human right. They’re like a consolation prize because the party is over – and sometimes the only way to persuade them out the door, it has to be said.

But I could be wrong. The Party Bag Busters at St Clare’s Primary School in Harold’s Cross in Dublin think a little differently. This group of third class pupils have started a campaign to end the use of party bags, and it’s based on some interesting research at their school. More than 80 per cent of parents of children from junior infants to third class think party bags are a waste of money.

Over 70 per cent reported that the small plastic toys the children receive end up in general waste less than a week later. The Party Bag Busters conservatively estimated (using CSO figures) that if each child between four and eight receives just five party bags this year, that will amount to more than three million party bags going to landfill or incineration in Ireland in 2020 alone. 

They’ve created a clever animation to help educate others about the impact these small party bags can have on the environment (it can be found on the school’s Twitter page @stclares1803), and are touring different schools to pass on the message. It’s so heartening to see young minds thinking of ways to address our problematic levels of consumption. And a good reminder to listen to – and include – children when it comes to making changes that are good for us all.

@SorchaHamilton

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