As a Year 10 Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College student, North Sydney, Sophia Skarparis was required to undertake a Personal Project…


Sophia’s Story

After consulting with Caritas Australia (Catholic Agency for International Aid & Development), Sophia found out that NSW was the only state that had not banned or would be banning single use plastic bags.  With her recent experience with a Climate Change petition through Our Lady of the Way (OLOW) parish Environment group she decided to take on the challenge of obtaining 10,000 signatures through a petition to ban both single use and heavy retail plastic bags in NSW.

The petition makes reference to banning heavy retail plastic bags which does go beyond what other states have done.

In obtaining 10,000 signatures she was guaranteed a debate about her petition in NSW Parliament. The signatures are required to be hard copy (NSW Government Petitions Committee do not allow online signatures).

NSW is the ONLY State in Australia that has not legislated to ban single use plastic bags

NSW is the ONLY State in Australia that has not legislated to ban single use plastic bags

FEB 2019

Exciting month!

20 February: Sophia starts her roadshow with AG Presents - she gets to talk about her mission of making others aware of the impact of plastic pollution with other Australian Geographic award winners. The event is at NSW Teachers Federation Conference Centre, Surry Hills: Perspectives of Antartica.

At lunchtime she is a guest speaker at the inaugural 2019 Stead Memorial Environmental Lecture being held at NSW Parliament House. She gets the opportunity to co-speak with Bob Carr, the longest continuously serving Premier in NSW history (1995-2005). The theme for this event is ‘One person can make a difference’, in memory of David G. Stead.

Better Business Partnerships have also released videos that they produced about Sophia’s quest to mobilise signatures for her petition to ban plastic bags in NSW. The videos have been shared with aligned NSW state politicians and social media.

Promotion of 2019 Australian Geographic Award Winners roadshow

Promotion of 2019 Australian Geographic Award Winners roadshow

Bye-Bye Plastic Bags in NSW Launch


JAN 2019

Australia Day, Saturday January 26 was extra special as Sophia was awarded Young Citizen of the Year by both Willoughby City Council and North Sydney Councils. Both Councils recognised Sophia’s efforts to mobilise 12,000 plus handwritten signatures for a NSW Government petition for legislation to ban plastic bags in NSW.

She was able to celebrate with distinguished guests, family and friends at both events.

2019 North Sydney Young Citizen of the Year L-R CEO Clean Up Australia Terrie-Anne Johnson, Sophia and Surfrider Rowan Hanley

2019 North Sydney Young Citizen of the Year L-R CEO Clean Up Australia Terrie-Anne Johnson, Sophia and Surfrider Rowan Hanley

2019 Willoughby Young Citizen of the Year L-R NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Sophia, CEO Guide Dogs NSW/Act Dale Cleaver and Willoughby Mayor, Gail Giles-Gidney

2019 Willoughby Young Citizen of the Year L-R NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Sophia, CEO Guide Dogs NSW/Act Dale Cleaver and Willoughby Mayor, Gail Giles-Gidney


Nov 2018

Friday 16 November

Sophia conducted a Waste Management Audit at her school, Monte Sant’ Angelo, North Sydney campus. She and her supporters weighed 59 of the 113 bags that were collected over two days from the site.

Wednesday 21 November

Sophia attended an exclusive private screening of The Map to Paradise hosted with support from The Wilderness Society Sydney Committee of Management. The film was an adventure-filled tale about the birth of the global movement to protect the sea.

Monday & Tuesday 26 & 27 November; Community Forum 3 December

Sophia attended a North Sydney Sustainability Youth Congress, cohosted by North Sydney Council and ozGREEN, held at the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability, Waverton. Thirty six high school students from 9 different high schools came together to develop a vision and most importantly to create practical action plans to make a difference.

Youth Leading the World 2018 quote

Youth Leading the World 2018 quote

Enthusiastic youth attendees of North Sydney Sustainability Youth Congress - Sophia second from right

Enthusiastic youth attendees of North Sydney Sustainability Youth Congress - Sophia second from right


Oct 2018


25 October, 2018
Clean Up Australia (CEO Terrie-Ann Johnson) and Sophia led an early morning community event at Bradfield Park, North Sydney where Terri-Ann acknowledged Ian Kiernan’s passing and legacy and handed over to Sophia, one of the leaders of the new generation taking responsibility and continuing his mission..

 NSW Parliament discussed Sophia’s petition @ 4.30pm. When the petition was discussed in the chamber, the NSW Government continued their stance of opposing a plastic bag ban.

Sophia beside plastic pollution sourced from Sydney Harbour

Sophia beside plastic pollution sourced from Sydney Harbour

Monte students supporting petition

Monte students supporting petition


September 2018

Afloat magazine included Sophia’s Letter to the Editor in their September issue.

1 September - BBP filmed first session @ Northside Produce markets.

8 September - Sophia is being mentored by Laura Wells, model and environmentalist.
Mentor sourced from Surfrider Foundation Australia.

10 September - BBP filmed second session at home, including Sophia’s friends.

25 September - Sophia organised with the Wenona Environmental Group a screening of Blue at the Independent Cinema, North Sydney and invited Monte and Wenona school communities.

27 September - Sophia attended North Sydney Community Awards and was awarded 2018 North Sydney Young Person of the Year.

28 September - BBP filmed third session @ BBP office, Chatswood with a voice over script.

August 2018


In early June, Sophia  sent out an update to the majority of her supporters advising them that she had just over 8,000 signatures. She still needed a couple of thousand more signatures and she would then meet with the Premier again when she obtained the 10,000 signatures.

13 August - Sophia has sought a meeting with the principal of Monte to have the Monte canteen accredited through Surfrider Foundation Australia as being plastic free.

24 August - Sophia met with the NSW Premier and whilst the Premier still did not support a ban on single use plastic bags she commented that she would be doing the same thing that Sophia is doing ‘which is educating the public’. She advised that she will be tabling the petitions in NSW Parliament for a debate as Sophia has obtained more than 10,000 signatures.  

29 August - BBP (Better Business Partnership) have requested to undertake video footage of Sophia and her petition journey


July 2018

transparent logo.png

Plastic Free July 

Sophia attended Plastic Free July Party on 7 July, at Tonic Lane cafe, Neutral Bay. 

Met Jo Taranto, Director Social Enterprise, Good for the Hood who appeared on Q & A on Monday 23 July. Jo interviewed Sophia and advised Sophia about ABC Open. A contribution named Waste Warrior: Sophia was received by ABC Open.

12 July - Attended Living Plastic Free Information Stall @ Chatswood Mall.  Met Hannah Pickering from The Trolley Bag Project – she runs workshops on how to make beeswax wraps.

14 July - Attended workshop promoted by North Sydney Council called Unwrapped- a Beginner’s Guide to reducing single use plastic – hosted by Sarah Tait

16 July - Attended YMCA NSW Youth Parliament held at Macquarie Street, Sydney. At lunch, Sophia addressed a youth parliamentarian crowd of over a 100 about her petition to ban the plastic bag in NSW. She also attended the debating session on the Environment and Climate Change after lunch. She obtained more than 30 signatures as well as a contact for the NSW Youth Parliamentarians Environment Group, Sam Harris.  

21 July, 2018 - Attended Northside Produce Markets Saturday morning. Advised about a magazine called Afloat which has a readership of over 30,000 (Australia wide).

28th of July - Plastic Free Community Event.JPG

22 July - Attended Sustainability at Stucco in Newtown – Student Climate Action Network.

28 July - Attended a Plastic Free Community event held at Barrenjoey High School, Avalon. The theme was A Living Ocean for Future Generations. There were stalls and workshops from ocean care groups.

 In July, Michael Paton, Youth Minister for Our Lady of the Way Parish, advised that the Parish had nominated Sophia as 2018 Young Person of the Year - North Sydney Community Award (Trent Zimmerman’s Office).

June 2018


In early June, Sophia sent out an update to the majority of her supporters advising them that she had just over 8,000 signatures. She still needed a couple of thousand more signatures and she would then meet with the Premier again when she obtained the 10,000 signatures.

At Mosman Markets with Boomerang Bags

At Mosman Markets with Boomerang Bags

With the knowledge that Northside Produce Markets were so successful Sophia booked a space at Mosman Market for 2 June, 2018. Unfortunately due to high winds/bad weather the Market was closed. Sophia was to share a table with Boomerang Alliance.

Through Surfrider Foundation Australia the petition was circulated at the Dee Why PCYC Club on 5 June. They showed a screening of Blue to over 200 people. Evening was hosted by Dr Michelle Blewitt, AUSMAP Program Manager, Total Environment Centre.

Meeting Jo Taranto and the team at TechShift 2018

Meeting Jo Taranto and the team at TechShift 2018

Sophia was able to solicit signatures from attendees at a Willoughby Council sponsored event called TECHSHIFT on the 15 June. The theme was around resource recovery and turning waste into resource. A soft launch of Bye Bye Plastic campaign also occurred. Sophia met Tim Silverwood Co Founder & CEO Take 3 and Katrina Kimmorley, Co Founder Pollinate Energy.

At the Laudato Si 6pm youth mass held at St Mary’s North Sydney on 17 June, Sophia spoke to the congregation about how Laudato Si inspired her to organise a petition to Ban the Plastic Bag in NSW. The celebrant, Fr Daven Day SJ endorsed her petition and mass goers had an opportunity to sign after mass.

North Sydney Council are producing an online July newsletter which is to have an article about Sophia and her campaign to Ban the Plastic Bag including her petition.

Through a Surfrider contact, Australian Geographic (AG) interviewed Sophia for an online article published 22 June, 2018. Australian Geographic has a reach of over 500,000 readers. AG suggested that Sophia be a suitable nomination for AG Young Conservationist of the Year.

On the fourth Saturday of each month, The Green Street Collective Ethical Market have a pop up store at 15 Green Street Brookvale. Upon request the organisers agreed to allow Sophia to collect signatures for her petition. Sophia and her Mum met with the supportive owners, Melissa Gray and Rachel Pines. One of the signatures collected was from a Wenona teacher, Rebecca Rodgerson. She asked Sophia to contact her and discuss possibilities for both school communities (Wenona and Monte) to be involved jointly in environmental initiatives.

Sophia was accepted as a nomination for Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year with application lodged on 27 June. Referee testimonial was from Surfrider Foundation Australia.


May 2018

Sophia and her Mum met the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian on Friday 4 May at her local office in Naremburn. Gladys is Sophia’s local member. Whilst the Premier was cordial and friendly she was only going to acknowledge the signatures by a letter. Sophia had only obtained 7,040 signatures at this stage.

Sophia also offered to meet the Premier on a regular basis to be a youth advocate for Environmental issues especially regarding plastic. The Premier advised that she was time poor and that a quarterly meeting with her was feasible. The Premier also said that if Sophia undertook these initiatives in her electorate that she would include Sophia in her media profile.

Monte Houseplays Event collecting more petition signatures in May 2018

Monte Houseplays Event collecting more petition signatures in May 2018

As soon as Sophia left the Premier’s office she decided that she would get the additional signatures and meet back with the Premier when she did. Sophia emailed the Premier’s office on Monday and updated her on that basis. Also the Premier advised that Sophia needed to copy the signatures and keep the copies.

Willoughby Local Council was contacted and Sophia’s Mum attended a breakfast called ‘Willoughby a Green City’ that was being organised by the Council on 15 May. A contact there provided some active organisations that would support the petition including the Surfrider Foundation Australia. Sophia emailed Rowan Hanley and Rowan emailed Surfrider Foundation supporters.

Sophia lodged an application for UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador.

Late May Sophia was allowed to circulate her petition at House Plays, a major event at Monte which includes all school years. She obtained about 500 signatures. In the morning she attended Muffins with Francis at Mary MacKillop Place as they were discussing Laudato Si’. She was asked to speak at the session about her petition and her experience.  

April 2018


Luke Foley, former Leader of the NSW Opposition mailed a letter supporting the petition and he advised that regardless of the number of signatures that he would be pleased to formally table the petition. Sophia emailed back advising that she was meeting the Premier in early May and would update him after the meeting with the Premier.

During April an organisation called Compost-A-Pak was contacted. Compost-A-Pak are a Newcastle based family business (for more than 10 years) providing online compostable bags and liners including dog waste solutions. All their products are made from a natural starch-based polymer derived from corn. It is third grade corn so the corn is not suitable for human or animal consumption. Compost-A-Pak mailed some free samples of their products to give/show the NSW Premier when Sophia had her meeting with her.

Collecting more signatures at Northside Produce Markets in April

Collecting more signatures at Northside Produce Markets in April

IMG_2890 2.jpg

March 2018

In March 2018 Catholic Weekly contacted Sophia and asked if they could do an article. She agreed and a positive article was included in the Weekly on the 18 March, 2018.  The article advised that she had gathered over 1,000 signatures.

At this stage she also established an email address for her cause so she could be contacted directly.

She was at the Earth Hour Breakfast at Riverview and identified other high schools who would be interested in circulating the petition (so forwarded the petition after the breakfast to these schools). 

Through a contact from the OLOW Environment group she was allowed to be at the opening of the Coal Loader , Picnic on Platform, Waverton and obtained more than 600 signatures from this event.

Collecting Signatures in Monte School

Collecting Signatures in Monte School

Collecting Signatures at the Coal Loader

Collecting Signatures at the Coal Loader

Earth Hour Breakfast, Riverview

Earth Hour Breakfast, Riverview

Northside Produce Markets agreed to have her petition there and Sophia canvassed visitors during March and April. This proved very successful with over 1,000 signatures obtained from the Markets.  

Sophia identified that there were also free screenings of The Plastic Ocean which the event organisers also allowed her to have her petition. The movie is an expose on the impact of plastic on the marine environment. From these screenings Sophia obtained about 400 signatures.

Northside Produce Markets

Northside Produce Markets

With Sophia’s contacts through Jesuit Communications she extended her reach of Catholic schools across the NSW state including Wollongong and Newcastle.

The Office of Bishop Umbers saw the article in the Catholic Weekly and Bishop Umbers signed the petition and circulated amongst his colleagues.

The aim for gathering signatures for the petition was to have a close off date mid April which coincided with the end of Term 1 for schools.

Feb 2018


From her experience with the Climate Change petition, Sophia recognised huge support from her generation, Generation Z. So she reached out to environmental leaders at local high schools in the lower North Shore with the petition, in the main they were Catholic schools. Her own school, Monte have been very supportive with over 1,500 signatures obtained from the school.

Sophia also included Wenona as the high school is only a couple of blocks away from Monte. Sophia devised a standard email which went out to the schools, including the petition and a two minute movie which explained the background behind the petition. These schools greatly supported the petition.

Sophia also approached Northside Produce Markets, North Sydney and asked if she could have her petition at the Markets.

In contacting Boomerang Alliance they provided Sophia free of charge Plastic Pollution Graphics and props which she has used to increase her visibility wherever she had a presence for her petition.


Contact Sophia.

Name *
Please select one of the following options
Please write here

instagram @plasticfreesophia



We so much enjoyed meeting Sophia and seeing her in action. She is a very special young woman. It was great to see how Sophia inspired many of the other congress participants and also how kind she was when working together with the younger Monte students. A group of Mosman students would like to create a more engaging focus on sustainability at their school and they said they’d like to invite more guest speakers to come to their school, especially inspiring young ones like Sophia!
— Ann-Charlott Paduch, OzGreen YLTW North Sydney Coordinator November 2018
Sophia has been a pleasure to work with and her passion for the environment, her strategic and measured approach to tackling big issues and her tenacity have been demonstrated to us at BBP on many an occasion. It was not a surprise to us that she was named the AG 2018 Young Conservationist of the Year and we look forward to continuing to support Sophia as she continues the great work that she has been doing and inspiring others in her generation to make things better for the future.
— Amanda Choy Acting Team Leader Better Business Partnership December 2018
This quote by Norman Vincent Peale could have been written for Sophia...”One person can make a difference. You don’t have to be a big shot. You don’t have to have a lot of influence. You just have to have your faith in your power to change things”.
— Suzie Crick Chairman Surfrider Foundation Australia June 2018
Testimonial quote. Suspendisse est elit, malesuada ac ante ac, consequat tincidunt est.
— Yosuke Inoue, Advertising Executive & Father of two