The school that shows good food is not just for posh kids | Aditya Chakrabortty

In England’s poorest town, schools are teaching their children to embrace a healthy diet. Our new economics series looks at the lessons from Oldham

• Listen to Aditya Chakrabortty talking about game-changing economic models on The Alternatives podcast

Should you ever need cheering up, I can recommend 11am at Stanley Road primary in Oldham. That’s when lunch starts for the youngest children and it is pure excitement; the kind you used to have when horizons were short, days were long and nothing else needed bothering about. First comes the babble of voices, far bigger than the little bodies that follow, swaddled in plump anoraks despite the sun outside. They take crockery, these four- and five-year-olds who, back in September, didn’t know how to hold a knife and fork – and get down to the serious business of choosing.

Behind the counter stands Sheena Fineran: black hat, big specs, magenta polo and, after 30 years as a dinner lady, in complete mastery of her domain. “When I started, it was lumpy mash. It was liver. It was cheap, fried, nasty food.

Related: How a small town reclaimed its grid and sparked a community revolution | Aditya Chakrabortty

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Related: Meet Britain’s Willy Wonkas: the ideas factory that could save UK industry | Aditya Chakrabortty

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Visualizing The Prolific Plastic Problem In Our Oceans

In February of 2018, a dead sperm whale washed up on along the picturesque shoreline of Cabo de Palos in Spain.

Officials noted that the whale was unusually thin, and a necropsy confirmed that the whale died from an acute abdominal infection. Put simply, the whale ingested so much plastic debris – 67 lbs worth – that its digestive system ruptured.

THE PLASTIC PROBLEM, VISUALIZED

Today’s infographic comes to us from Custom Made, and it helps put the growing marine debris problem in perspective.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

A SPIRALING PROBLEM

The equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic enters the sea every minute and the volume of ocean plastic is expected to triple within a decade.

Every stray bit of trash that enters the ocean, from a frayed fishing net off the coast of the Philippines to a plastic bottle cap from an Oakland storm drain, all end up circulating in rotating ocean currents called gyres.

For this reason, the Pacific Gyre is now better known by another name: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

THE SUM OF MANY PLASTIC PARTS

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is often misrepresented online as a literal raft of floating trash stretching as far as the eye can see. The real situation is less visually dramatic, but it’s what we can’t see – microplastic – that’s the biggest problem. Tiny fragments of plastic pose the biggest risks to humans because it’s easy for them to enter the food chain after being ingested by marine life.

While derelict fishing gear such as nets and floats are a contributor to the problem, land-based activity accounts for the majority of the garbage circulating in the ocean. Most of the world’s countries have ocean coastlines, and with so many jurisdictions and varying degrees of environmental scrutiny, truly curbing the flow of plastic isn’t realistic in the near term.

NO SOLUTION ON THE HORIZON

Garbage patches have formed deep in the middle of international waters, so there is no clear cut way to decide who is responsible for cleaning up the mess. Organizations like The Ocean Cleanup are researching ocean gyres and providing better insight into the extent of the plastic problem. The Ocean Cleanup is best positioned to make a real impact, though executing on their vision will require vast resources and substantial funding.

Nobody likes seeing whales wash up on shore, but for now, a fully-scaled solution may still far out on the horizon.