Return-It Blog

Inspiring the next generation to turn the tide on ocean plastic

On April 16, 2019, Return-It announced its partnership with Ocean Ambassadors Canada at Kitsilano beach where grades six and seven students from Vancouver’s Florence Nightingale School learned about marine plastics and its impact on the ocean.

Return-It and Ocean Ambassadors Canada, two local organizations with a shared passion for the environment, have joined forces to educate and empower the environmental leaders of tomorrow. Return-It is sponsoring the expansion of the Ocean Ambassadors program so that more students can learn about how plastics affect the marine environment, and become life-long ambassadors who can make a meaningful impact in their schools and communities.

“As the famous explorer Jacques Cousteau once said, we protect what we love. That’s why we’re empowering the environmentalists of tomorrow by giving them a stronger connection to the ocean,” said Allen Langdon, President and CEO of Encorp Pacific. “Not only is this new partnership a natural fit with our long history of educating students about the environment and the importance of recycling, it’s also aligned with our global commitment made through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to help eliminate plastic pollution at the source.”

Students who have participated in Ocean Ambassadors have gone on to tackle this global issue locally by creating plastics education workshops for the other students in their schools, forming ocean stewardship clubs, initiating single-use plastics campaigns in their schools and starting local recycling initiatives. The first program of its kind in Canada, Ocean Ambassadors has engaged more than 2,900 students since 2017.

Return-It, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has diverted more than 20 billion used beverage containers from landfills and through its Return-It School recycling program has positively impacted more than 1.4 million students.

Bottom: Students from Florence Nightingale Elementary School
From top-left: Peter Ladner, former Vancouver City Councillor; John Irwin, Vancouver Parks Board Commissioner; Allen Langdon, President and CEO of Return-It; Judith Guichon, former Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia; Alison Wood, Executive Director of Ocean Ambassadors Canada; Return-It Scientist; Return-It Mascot; Su Bailey, Ocean Ambassadors Canada staff member; Peter Hartwick, Teacher at Florence Nightingale Elementary School

“To change the world, you need to get your feet wet,” said Alison Wood, Executive Director of Ocean Ambassadors Canada. “That’s why our program gets students out of the classroom, onto the beach and into the water to have positive experiences, and learn about the global issue of ocean plastics. We encourage other forward-thinking companies who want to make a difference to lend their financial support to help us reach even more children.”

Ocean Ambassadors Canada and the Return-It School recycling program complement each-other by enhancing the educational experience through hands-on workshops. The new sponsorship will give 165 elementary school students – who may not otherwise have the means to participate – the opportunity to take part. The first students to benefit from this partnership started their lifelong learning journey at Kitsilano Beach with an Opening Circle, followed by an Ocean Camp beach workshop and stand-up paddleboarding experience.

“Youth represent the future of our planet,” added Honorary Ocean Ambassador Judith Guichon, former Lieutenant Governor of B.C. “We’re giving our leaders of tomorrow a unique opportunity to form a personal and visceral connection to the ocean that leaves a lasting memory, inspires them to make a difference and encourages them to think creatively about solutions.”