Clifton College narrowly win Spring Competition focused on plastics in the ocean

Report by Kitty Murdoch and Hayden Schrijver, Clifton College, Bristol

On 26th February 2019, teams from schools around the Bristol and Bath region gathered in the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol to compete in the annual GA Decision Making Competition. This year’s topic was one which is really affecting our planet right now and one which needs solutions to be put into action before the matter gets completely out of our hands – plastics in our oceans.

We started the evening off with a rather frightening talk from Eleni Michalopoulou, who teaches on the Sustainable Futures course at Bristol, in which she made us aware how serious an issue plastics are. They are having a profound affect on life in the oceans: One single plastic bag having the ability to kill more than 100 dolphins. However, the most pressing part about the talk was the detailed insight into microplastics, which was a new concept to many of us in the room. It quickly became more apparent to us that these microplastics are almost impossible to extract completely from the oceans, as most of the time we can barely see them. By the end of the talk, we had all been encouraged to seek out worthy solutions to plastics in our oceans.

Eleni Michalopoulou (University of Bristol) talks passionately about microplastics, promoting scientific research and local action to global problem.

After this inspirational talk we were all eager to put this newfound knowledge to the test and try to come up with solutions on how to combat this critical issue. With an hour and a half to come up with solutions and to create a presentation, every minute counted and so all the teams quickly went to work crafting the best solutions and presentation possible.

Rapid action poster production by the teams.

We as a team had decided to combat the issue with technofix (oceans) our aim being to get as much plastic out of the oceans and convert it into sustainable products such as concrete – when plastic is combined with concrete under gamma radiation it is made 20 times stronger and so is beneficial in infrastructure in earthquake prone areas. We had sourced as much information as we could from the information packs and began to hastily get it all down on our poster in the most presentable way possible. Luckily the final 10 minutes allowed us to rehearse the actual presentation of our poster and so we were at least a little bit prepared for when the first whistle blew allowing the 3 minute time slot with our first judge to commence.

Dr. Jenny Hill (UWE) listens intently to the pitch by the one of the teams.

After all 3 judges had finished, we all waited in suspense for the results – 1st Clifton College, 2nd Redmaids High School, 3rd Backwell school. It was a really great opportunity and we know that everyone came away so much more aware of the plastics that we are putting into our oceans and hopefully some will return to the issue in a few years to properly tackle it. Special thanks to the GA for organising it and all the refreshments provided it was greatly appreciated.

Narrow winners after great work by all teams were Clifton College. Here, presented with the diminutive GA Spring Competition cup by Garry Atterton.
L to R: Billy Thomas-Connolly, Hayden Schrijver and Kitty Murdoch

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