Students, the heart and soul of waste management at Auburn South Primary School
Students at Auburn South Primary School were the proud winners of a Zero Waste Box™ from TerraCycle as part of our Waste Challenge earlier this year. Emily Hui, Sustainability Coordinator at Auburn South Primary School shares their waste initiatives and top waste management tips for other schools.
1. What is a hard to recycle item that your school initially had trouble with, but you now collect and recycle effectively?
Pens, pencils and markers which we now have a TerraCycle box, as they collect and recycle pens, mechanical pencils, markers, highlighters, permanent markers and caps. Our Student Green Team check through the collection box and pull out any that still have life in them, which are rehomed with students/classes.
2. How much is your waste management success due to student involvement?
The heart and soul of it all! Students are passionate about change and drive it with creativity and energy. Our whole school compost began with the Sustainability Student Leadership Team many moons ago so it would feed into our Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program and garden. From inquiry into solutions, researching, letter writing for support, marketing, education, roll out and monitoring. Then there’s the current waste management system which was constructed, signage devised, advertising videos/quizzes and education provided by two passionate Year 4 Student Green Team leaders last year in between lockdowns and running on-line sustainability clubs during remote learning.
3. What is your next waste reduction goal?
After our school bin waste audit, we traced a lot of the single-use plastic waste back to our own canteen, so our Sustainability Student Leadership Team, Parent Green Team and Canteen Team are working together on reducing the waste here.
4. What are your top 3 tips for other schools in waste management?
Our Top 3 Tips are:
- Student led is best and get everyone involved, and we mean everyone! From the admin/office team, leadership team, staff, families, school council, parents association, cleaners etc. and of course most importantly all the students!
- A streamline and uniform waste management system where all the bins are the same throughout the school including all learning areas, staff room, administration building, canteen and outdoors. We have red landfill, yellow commingled recycling, orange soft plastic recycling and green compost caddies. Classes/Year levels are rostered for each part of the system, including older students training the Prep-Year 2 students on composting while emptying the compost caddies each week.
- Gathering and utilising a Parent Green Team can be powerful in assisting with systematic change. For example, developing and minoring a low-waste events guide and resources, which are mostly run by the Parent Association. The PGT also enter the bills onto ResourceSmart, assist with grant applications and have a great network to get things done.
Slowly but surely. Bit by bit. Celebrate the wins and provide alternatives/swaps! For example instead of balloons and hanging plastic decorations for the school disco and picnic, we have paper and material alternatives that can be reused or recycled.
As Anne-Marie Bonneau, the Zero Waste Chef, said “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”