EU Milk Scheme – a contradictory message for schoolchildren

Towards the end of the last scholastic year, a new scheme subsidised by the European Union was introduced in Malta.

The scheme involved the distribution of small cartons of milk and containers of fresh fruit and vegetables to all Early School students in Malta once a week. The administration and eco-school committee at St Albert the Great College in Valletta showed great concern about the environmental impact of this initiative.

I met with Mr Mario Mallia, the schools’ headmaster, to understand better the school’s position on the scheme.

The headmaster said that the school was forced to withdraw from the scheme because the school believes in teaching the students to care for the environment. The scheme, which was aimed at teaching the students about a healthy diet, involved the use of thousands of single-use straws and plastic containers per week. The school believes that there can be a more sustainable way of teaching kids about healthy diets. Mr Mallia stated that the school had contacted the agencies involved to make suggestions on how to make the scheme more environmental-friendly.

For example, the school suggested that the milk be delivered to the schools in one-litre cartons. The students would be asked to bring their own reusable cups for distribution. The agency said that they had passed on the school’s suggestion and that it would opt for biodegradable straws and containers made of recyclable material. The school is of the opinion that these changes are still not environmentally sensitive enough.

Mr Mallia recently uploaded on the school’s Facebook page a post explaining the reason why the school opted out of the scheme. The post got a good response, with several people commenting that they agreed with the school’s position. Some even wished that other schools would take the same stand and make pressure on the agencies involved so the current problem can be solved.

I contacted Malta Dairy Products Ltd., the company responsible for the production and packaging of the milk distributed by the scheme. The company representatives said that they do not have any control over the matter because they are just following the government tender.

I agree with the position taken by St Albert the Great College because single-use plastic is a global problem. In Malta, efforts are being made to reduce plastic cutlery, shopping bags and water bottles. Therefore, this scheme is sending mixed messages. I think that more schools should take this stand so we can encourage the younger generations to try and avoid all single-use plastic. If the students learn this lesson, they will pass it on to their parents and others. I believe that if everyone does their part we will change the future for the better.

Isaac Sam Camilleri

Student at St Albert the Great College, Valletta

This article placed second in Malta in the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) competition.