A London primary school has reported a striking improvement in air quality since using recycled plastic smog shields to protect its pupils.
Goose Green School in East Dulwich worked with British Recycled Plastic to install several recycled plastic planters along the roadside in front of its main entrance, with the aim of putting a physical barrier between the car exhausts and the children. The custom-made planters were produced from British waste to fit between the railing and road, with enough depth to block fumes and provide a decent growing environment for the plants.
The planters were part of a raft of measures carried out by the school aimed at combating the poor air quality its pupils were exposed to everyday with funding from the Mayor of London’s Greener City Fund to improve air quality around the school. London’s air pollution was recently thrust into the spotlight when 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah sadly lost her life having suffered from an extreme case of asthma. According to a report in the National Law Review, the coroner reviewing her death determined that the high level of pollution surrounding her London home contributed to her symptoms and ultimately to her death. With countless environmental lawsuits already pending across the globe, this decision could open the floodgates for more air pollution lawsuits.
British Recycled Plastic’s Managing Director, Jason Elliott, says: “The smog shield planters are a brilliant solution to an ever-increasing challenge in town centres and we’d love to see more of them rolled out across the country.
“British Recycled Plastic is passionate about changing the perception that waste materials are only a problem and believe that they should also be seen as a resource, as we have seen with the Goose Green School project. As a consequence, major investment is needed at a local, regional and national level in sorting, cleaning and reprocessing.
“It was a pleasure to work with the school on this worthwhile project which demonstrates one of the many ways recycled plastic can be used for the greater good.”
Goose Green School has reported that its playground air pollution has been cut by almost half since adopting the smog shields. It also successfully installed one of Southwark’s first school ‘Green Screens’ and indicative results of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels inside the Green Screen showed a 48% reduction compared to the level measured before the installation of the Green Screen. Current NO2 levels inside the Green Screen are also 52% lower than the current levels outside, next to the road. These reductions mean that the whole of Goose Green School’s playground falls within the EU legal limits for NO2.
Kimberley Hickman, the leader of the school’s clean air garden project, adds: “Now that the smog shield is a mature project, it’s been great to see the basics working well – the shield is really effective at limiting smog exposure, and the recycled plastic construction works in exactly the way we hoped it would. We chose recycled plastic lumber for its long lifespan and zero-maintenance qualities, and it’s as good now as the moment we put it in.
“What no one could have foreseen, though, has been the impact on the local community: in the first year we had many comments from local residents thanking us for bringing a splash of green to the street and improving the air quality. Then of course lockdown came, and over the summer no staff could be on site to water the plants, so the locals organised a community watering rota and kept the plants healthy and happy in the heat. This has connected many people who may otherwise never have met, and with whom the school would otherwise struggle to engage. That’s really been a priceless gift during this last year of social distancing.”
Above: Goose Green School’s smog shields