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The whole world changed when the BBC aired the episode of blue planet which showed the true and devastating impact plastics are having on our oceans, our wildlife and our planet.

Since then there has been a sea change in the public perception to single use plastics with campaigns like Sky Ocean and Refill dominating the news agenda and making big businesses and government sit up and take notice.

It’s a hot topic and one that will be explored and discussed at Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival 2018.

Isle Utilities are leading the ‘Blue Planet’ teenage sprint that will ask the question “How can we reduce the impact of single use plastics?”

Differing from other sprints at this year’s festival the team looking to solve the issue will mainly be made up of teenagers and young people from colleges and schools across the region.

They will be working alongside experts from Northumbrian Water and Isle Utilities to come up with creative solutions on how to reduce the impact of single use plastics from individual, local and global perspectives.

Sprint lead Luke Dennis, one of NWG’s Technical Advisors, “This is one of the most exciting and interesting topics being sprinted at this year’s festival, for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, it’s a really emotive subject that is hugely important and massively in the public eye at the minute. Plastic pollution is having a devastating impact on our oceans and marine wildlife, so any outcomes from this sprint could help to make a huge difference in how the world deals with plastic use and its impacts.

“Secondly, the fact the sprint is being ran by teenagers means there is no restrictions on what we can come up with and the ideas that will come from the group. Those involved are the part of the next generation and I can’t wait to see what comes out of the sprint. I’m really looking forward to being part of such an exciting event.”

Piers Clark, Chairman of Isle Group, said, “For Isle, this Sprint is so important and we hope to come away with some great outcomes.

“Some people might argue that small changes made by individuals are meaningless and that real change can only be effected by organisations, politicians and policy makers.

“They are wrong, we cannot leave this issue to The Suits. It is too big and too thorny to be resolved by them alone. It requires widespread engagement, for which we are excited to be a part of”

The sprint topic was inspired by Hannah Mitchell, a 12-year-old Durham Johnston School pupil, who wrote a moving letter about plastic pollution to her fellow students as part of an assignment.

When Northumbrian Water found out about the letter they surprised Hannah with a visit to her school to say thank you for her hard work and her commitment to the plastics cause.

During the visit Hannah and her geography class mates took part in a ‘Blue Planet’ themed discussion and she was presented with a thank you letter and gift on behalf of the company and also invited to come and play a part at the festival.

Her letter and message will form a key part of the ‘Blue Planet’ sprint and provide inspiration to those taking part.
 
Hannah said: “I’m really happy that my letter will now get to be seen by so many people and hopefully it can go some way to making a difference and helping save our oceans.”

Hannah’s geography teacher Mrs Louise Hardwick said: ““It is wonderful that Hannah’s letter has received recognition from Northumbrian Water. She is a fantastic geographer and it is so good to see students like Hannah going beyond the classroom taking their passion for the planet forward and making a difference.” 

Luke Dennis added:“When we found out about Hannah’s letter we were so moved by her words and by what she’d done that we had to meet her and get her involved as part of the Blue Planet Sprint.

“I think her assignment sums up perfectly the spirit and meaning behind what we are trying to achieve with the project and that’s why we’ve chosen Hannah and her work to be the inspiration behind the sprint.”

People can find out more about what’s taking place at the NWG Innovation Festival, and how they can get involved, at https://innovationfestival.org/.

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