We caught up with our Precious Plastic York volunteer, Natalie Rea, and asked her some nosy questions about what inspires her and how she hopes to help St Nicks make a difference.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Natalie Rea. I am an Earth enthusiast. Having studied Geology for my undergraduate degree, I am fascinated by the natural make-up of our world. This led to an understanding of our impact on our planet and realising a great amount needs to be done to keep the Earth habitable for humans (and for nature’s sake). In my free time, I take the opportunity to get outdoors, exploring new walking routes where there is always something new to see.
What drew you to volunteer at St Nicks?
I had previously volunteered with St Nicks while studying for my A levels, where I was helping with up-keep of the nature reserve and really enjoyed it. After studying in Cardiff for 3 years, it was great to move back to my hometown of York which I love and think there is a great sense of community here. Now studying for my master’s degree in sustainability, I knew St Nicks were working on some really cool projects in contributing towards making York greener and more sustainable and I wanted to be involved.
What have you been doing in your volunteer role so far?
I have been helping St Nicks with various areas of their upcoming Precious Plastic York project which aims to change views and behaviours associated with plastic waste. I have contacted other Precious Plastic leaders around the UK to hear about and learn from their projects and how they got people involved. I have also been looking into groups/individuals who may want to get involved with the project, from university students to arts and crafts groups.
Can you share a bit of background about the Precious Plastic, both at St Nicks and elsewhere?
The plastic problem is a huge global issue, with most of our plastic ending up in oceans or landfill, as around only 9% is currently recycled. It’s a complex issue for many reasons, which the world is currently trying to tackle – which is where Precious Plastic comes in! It is a global initiative helping local people solve local problems. It provides blueprints for free for DIY machines that enable everyone to work with plastic waste.
St Nicks are in a great position for this, as they already collect a huge amount of plastic with their kerbside collection service for York Council. This means they have access to a wide variety of colours and types of plastic which you can make into amazing things. This also means that St Nicks won’t be accepting donations of plastic as they get plenty from their kerbside collections, so as much as they may wish to tackle all of your plastics, they wouldn’t be able to fit it all in!
There are lots of Precious Plastic projects popping up all over the world. Each is unique in itself, with some of them even making a business out of plastic waste. These projects are great in bringing people together and having conversations about plastic waste while helping to tackle social issues in the community – as Plastic Shed in Stockport are doing.
What difference do you hope that the Precious Plastic York project will make?
Although it’s amazing to create new things out of plastic waste, this isn’t the point of the project. Through engaging with the workshops and speaking about the plastic problem in the community, it is enabling people to think differently about plastic waste and see it’s true value – in the hopes that we can drive local and wider change through our knowledge and behaviours. Reducing our reliance on unnecessary plastics. It would be even better if we inspired other people in York to build some machines for themselves and drive plastic waste reduction into our community. St Nicks are hoping to bring all kinds of people into the project, from designers, innovators, universities as well as residents and the public to make it a real collaborative effort.
What would you say to people who are thinking of getting involved in Precious Plastic York?
I would say that’s great that you are wanting to engage with such an important and crucial issue our world is facing. There are a variety of ways you can get involved. Firstly, having you onboard is a huge part of the project in spreading the message and this is a massive help. Apart from attending one of the workshops, local art groups could make an art piece to inspire people to think about unnecessary plastic and why it’s so easy to use and chuck away, or local STEM students from schools can help with design ideas for new problem solving products that are going to be made out of the plastic. These are just two examples but there are many more ways, so don’t be afraid to reach out. It is really about coming together to innovate and push these conversations and awareness into our community.
Lastly, a surprising fact you’d like to share.
I love musical theatre – I’m a fanatic. I attended theatre school when I was younger and still love singing and dancing. My favourite musical is Wicked (if you haven’t seen it you are missing out).
Keep in touch with the Precious Plastic York project on our Facebook group or contact us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org