Project on plastic pollution wins top prize at Eco Unesco awards

Winning entries at Young Environmentalist Awards focussed on pollution of waterways

Ireland's young environmentalists from primary and secondary schools nationwide have been honoured at the ECO-UNESCO Environmentalists Awards Showcase in Dublin. Projects focussed on climate change, biodiversity loss over-consumption and pollution.

 

A project focussed on the plastic pollution crisis has been awarded the top prize at the Eco Unesco Young Environmentalist Awards.

The awards, which took place in the Convention Centre in Dublin on Thursday, were the culmination of an island-wide programme for 10-18 year olds that recognises young people who take action to improve and protect the environment.

About 4,000 young people take part in the programme each year, and more than 45,000 have taken part since it began in 1999.

The overall senior winner at the awards was Ashbourne Community College in Co Meath. A group from the school worked on a project that focussed on the plastic pollution crisis currently facing the planet.

The group developed a range of different artistic media, including a whale made from discarded plastic, to highlight and raise awareness of the global threat of plastic to the environment.

The overall junior winner was Coláiste Muire Secondary School in Ennis, Co Clare, for a project focused on increasing biodiversity in their school and the wider community. It was also aimed at reducing the impact humans have on the environment.

The overall winner of the special super junior category for ages 8-10 was a group made up of brothers Evan, Alex and Dylan Nealon from Co Kerry.

Their project involved the removal of plastic from the Tralee canal and bay, as well as the protection of wildlife and the environment. The group pulled almost 250 bags of rubbish out of the area including mattresses, televisions, fridges and chairs.

The project led to funding for a “seabin” and assistance cleaning the hard-to-reach areas. Evan has cystic fibrosis and CF Ireland asked the brothers if they would be ambassadors for the charity for 2019.

Former president Mary Robinson, who lent her support to awards, said young people were playing an increasingly important role in the fight against climate change.

“As far as I’m concerned, everyone who takes part is a winner because they’ve taken real action for the sustainable development goals,” she said. “It’s great that young people are giving such leadership.

“They’re really beginning to change how we see this huge problem that is facing us and are telling us, the grown-ups, that we have not done enough. Please continue and keep the pressure up.”

Eco Unesco national director Elaine Nevin said climate change was the “defining issue of our generation” and called for “urgent action” to reduce global warming.

“Eco Unesco has been engaging, educating and empowering young people to take action on environmental issues of concern to them for over 30 years,” she said.

“Young people involved in our programmes over the years are concerned about environmental degradation, including biodiversity loss, overconsumption and climate change.

“As educators, we have worked to build their awareness, confidence and self-esteem so that they can make choices and take an active role in society.”