Plastic pollution awareness in the classroom

Phil Humphreys is a geography teacher who is raising awareness of plastic pollution to not only his pupils, but the wider community as well, through the ‘eco-brick’ project. Here, Phil shares what inspired the initiative and the impact it has had.

Thoughts - Phil Humphreys

Inspired to teach

I have always wanted to teach. My father was a teacher, and I think that, that influenced me. I remember going in to school with him when I was ill, or going occasionally to pick him up, and thinking that it was all pretty cool. It still is to be fair! I was heavily inspired towards geography teaching, by an inspirational teacher I had in my Sixth Form, Mr Henbest. He marked nothing, radical for today’s standards, but the passion he brought to the lessons and to geography in particular has stayed with me. The humour and care he displayed to each one of us in the class meant in the end, that we all did really well. I think that this fostered my enthusiasm. I have not wanted to do anything else, and to be honest I have never done anything else either!

Raising conservation issues in class

I think there has been no better time to be a Geography Teacher. To be able to influence the future generations, at this time especially, when surrounded by a constant stream of geographical news - pollution, climate emergence, pandemics, and help them make sense of everything, is a real privilege. These are themes that are a constant thread in everything I do, but conservation especially is taught integrally though units of work on plastic, fast fashion (cotton and water), and coffee trade along with land conservation. I like to think that I am educating the next wave of radical geographers, students who are prepared to stand up and make a difference. The pupils here at school really care. It is my job to help them steer a path through the noise.

'Eco-bricks’ created in the classroom. © Phil Humphreys. All rights reserved.

Inspiration for ‘eco-bricks’

I was listening to Radio 5 before Christmas, and a report came on about the amount of waste that is generated over Christmas, much of which cannot be recycled. Combine that with the number of fizzy drinks bottles that exist (again, particularly around the festive season), and you have the perfect recipe for eco-bricks! I ran an assembly, and the interest was sparked. We have had 97 eco-bricks completed so far, meaning nearly 6kg of single use plastic has been taken out the environment.

Impact on community

The impact has been phenomenal and totally unexpected. We have had eco-bricks in from parents, their work places, governors, staff, and more! After an appearance on Radio Oxford, we managed to find a home for them too. They are going to a local community initiative to help them build sustainable enclosures for their wildlife. It seems that the pupils here at school will have the opportunity to help build with the bricks too, which will be brilliant.


Philip Humphreys is Head of Geography at Wychwood School in the center of Oxford.
Find out more at @wychwoodgeog or contact Phil on

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