Empowering young people to act on plastic pollution

8 Nov 2021

Lendlease is engaging local youths on the issue of single-use plastics and empowering pupils to take action

Plastic pollution is a global challenge that requires urgent attention. Most plastic materials are derived from fossil fuels, including oil and gas. Consequently, the process of manufacturing and disposing of these materials emits greenhouse gases. This exacerbates climate change, and causes devastating impacts on the environment and wildlife. 

Extreme weather events are a consequence of climate change. As floods and storms increase in their frequency and magnitude, plastic waste is being dispersed further into the sea and onto land. This waste damages physical habitats, threatens aquatic life, and disrupts vital ecosystems. 

Tackling plastic consumption can therefore help to reduce the threat posed to wildlife and marine species, and lower carbon emissions. 

To help this issue, Lendlease has collaborated with subcontractors and partners to engage with young people from local schools, colleges and universities based near to its projects in the Midlands. The purpose has been to raise awareness of the impact of single-use plastics on the environment, people and nature. And importantly, encourage positive action.  

Read about each initiative below. 

Single Use Plastic Ambassadors Programme 

Lendlease developed a work placement programme which invites young people from local institutions and community groups to learn about the issue of single-use plastics. It also challenges them to come up with creative local solutions to tackle the global problem. During a five-day placement, the cohorts engage with a variety of construction professionals. They learn transferable skills to help with their assignment, including project management, problem solving, safety, and sustainability, and also hear about career opportunities within the industry. 

At the end of the week the students present their solutions and receive feedback from Lendlease staff. Not only does the programme help to develop valuable skills in communication, teamwork and decision making, but the participants also receive a Silver Industrial Cadets Award. 

Working with a local charity, World Against Single Use Plastics (WASUP), and supply chain contractors like Wilmott Dixon, Vinci, Munnellys and Kier, the programme has engaged with nearly 90 young people so far in the Midlands. It has been delivered both in-person at Lendlease offices and virtually, receiving strong feedback from school staff and pupils. 

The programme has also been adapted into a digital workbook and shared with local schools in the Midlands. This will enable them to deliver materials independently. 

Single Use Plastics Hoardings Design Challenge 

Lendlease tasked a group of art and design students from Birmingham Metropolitan College to give the hoardings at its Perry Barr Residential Scheme a makeover. But this was not just any makeover. The team had to captivate local communities; creatively engaging them on the impact of single-use plastics and how to address the problem.

The students undertook research in small groups, and worked with Lendlease employees to gain feedback on their ideas. With this valuable input, the teams were then able to put their ideas down on paper. Three designs were showcased to Lendlease staff, the project’s client, and supply chain teams for further feedback. Instead of one winner being chosen, the three designs were combined to produce a final display. This was installed on the hoardings in October 2021. All ten students involved in the project received Industrial Cadet Silver Awards for their work. 

One of the students, Matthew, said: “I now feel more experienced to work with established reputable businesses and with real life employer briefs. It is great that we are getting some exposure to the important issues that affect all our lives, and I appreciate that opportunities like this don’t come along often. My plan is to work within branding product design, and due to the skills and knowledge I have gained during this industrial placement I feel closer to my dream!”


Final design installed on hoardings at Perry Barr Residential Scheme, Birmingham, UK 

Single Use Plastics Primary School Book

To help promote environmentally friendly behaviours amongst young people, Lendlease sponsored a book developed by Professor Gatrad from World Against Single Use Plastics. This aims to educate primary school students about single use plastics and promote key principles like reducing waste through the use of reusable containers, reusing materials and recycling correctly. Tier One contractors working on Lendlease’s Perry Barr Residential Scheme also sponsored the book, which was launched in November 2021 across schools in Birmingham.  

Lendlease’s is passionate about working with local communities to its projects, to create positive social value for people today and for future generations. The company is also committed to tackling climate change across its global operations through its Mission Zero targets to be Net Zero by 2025, and Absolute Zero by 2040. And seeks to divert waste, like plastic, away from landfills through its Sustainability Framework focus area; Resources and Materials.  

Lendlease Sustainability Focus Areas: