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Concern for the health and mental wellbeing of pupils together with a desire to reduce plastics usage are the twin drivers of a new initiative that will see 1,000 aluminium water bottles distributed at Lochaber High School after the Easter holidays.
The scheme ties in with this week’s installation of three new ‘quick fill’ water fountains around the school’s canteen area, where the new bottles can be easily topped up by pupils and staff.
Already nicknamed ‘Liberty bottles’ by head teacher Scott Steele, they have been donated by Liberty British Aluminium, which operates the smelter at Fort William.
The company stepped in with an offer of support within an hour of learning of the plans just before Christmas and is keen to continue providing fresh supplies of the bottles for each new S1 intake from now on.
Mr Steele this week explained to the Lochaber Times that it was a decision earlier this year to ban the consumption of energy drinks by pupils within the school that was the catalyst.
‘It was back in March that the decision was taken to ban energy drinks containing high levels of caffeine. It was a decision initially driven by our health and wellbeing agenda – simple as that,’ he said.
‘We had several student doctors here before Christmas as part of our engagement with Aberdeen University. I got speaking with them about energy drinks, as I’ve always had a concern about them, and they were telling us about the latest medical research.
‘For me, it was all about the mental wellbeing issue. People slump after the high of an energy drink and their emotional state can be quite low afterwards. My staff and I were concerned about that.
‘But we needed to replace those drinks with something and we have been able to provide a much healthier alternative thanks to the kind sponsorship of Liberty.’
Liberty British Aluminium’s operations director at Fort William, Tom Uppington, said the initiative was an obvious fit for the company.
‘Aluminium has been part of the town for a long time and in terms of the reduce, reuse and recycle initiative, it is perfect. The bottles can be used as long as you want if looked after and aluminium can be easily recycled.
‘We are every focused on trying to support local communities as much as we can and this seemed ideal.
‘I think it’s something we’d like to continue so that each new S1 intake gets a bottle – maybe as something you get when you do your transition week.’
Mr Steele added: ‘Another main factor was our wish and the wish of our eco committees to markedly reduce our use of plastics in the school.
‘My estimate is – although I have no figures to back this up as yet – that we can reduce our plastic usage by as much 80 per cent thanks to our new Liberty bottles.’