The Tweed Shire Councils Wastewise Schools Program has been developed to educate students about recycling and minimise waste to landfill. Since its inception most the the shire's primary schools have joined the program and participated in creating bin stations and compost bays, conducting waste audits and setting up an environment club for their school. Below are case studies from some local Wastewise Schools. If you would like to know more please contact Tweed Shire Council's Environment Education Officer; firstname.lastname@example.org
St Anthony's Catholic Primary School
St Anthony's is a medium sized primary school located on the coast at Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia. The school was keen to improve its recycling efforts and were one of the first schools to implement the Tweed Shire Councils' Wastewise Schools Program. To begin with two waste audits were carried out either side of a litter free lunch day and the results revealed that during a 'business as usual' day, 67% of the waste was general waste, 25% organic food scraps and 8% recyclables. The audit after the litter free lunch day resulted in less waste overall and of that only 24% was general waste, 66% was organic and 10% was recyclables.
From there an entire year level was given the responsibility to be in charge of the Wastewise program. With teachers help they set up bin stations and posters, managed a worm farm and compost bins for organic waste and gave presentations about the program to the rest of the school.
The school has benefited via the financial saving of reduced waste management fees, creating an environment that encourages responsible waste practices and informing students, teachers and parents about excessive waste creation and ways to avoid it.
Pottsville Public School
Pottsville Public School is located near the southern boundary of the Tweed Shire. It is one of the larger public primary schools with 720 students enrolled and they had an annual waste service fee in excess of $10,000. The P&C committee decided they needed to find ways to reduce this cost. Initially a waste audit was conducted and it was assessed that the play grounds bins contained 75% food scraps, the classrooms had 90% recyclables and the total general waste generated was only 10% of all waste. This meant that with good management the school could reduce its waste to landfill by up to 90%, saving the school thousands of dollars each year.
Therefore to achieve this two options were presented; one was to install waste stations in classrooms and around the playgrounds to encourage recycling and composting, the other was to remove all the general waste bins and only provide recycling bins in the classrooms for paper.
The first option meant that there was a financial investment needed for new bins, so the P&C Committee decided on the second option; a direction not yet taken by any other school. The school had to inform parents that they would no longer be disposing any waste created by the students unless it was recyclable. The parents were provided with information packs about litter free lunches and had the benefits explained to them. Initially there was a backlash from some parents but according to teacher Ms Squires the majority of parents supported the idea. After six weeks a survey was sent out and the parents stated that returning food leftovers created a messy lunchbox but it also gave them an idea of how much their child was eating. This survey prompted the school to install food scrap bins in each classroom and canteen to keep the student's lunch boxes clean. The collected food was added to one of nine compost bins and the recyclables go into one of nine recycle wheelie bins.
Pottsville Primary School has been able to reduce its waste management bill by 55% over 18 months; this has been achieved by halving the size and reducing the frequency of its bulk bin service.
A school play ground with no bins!
A litter free lunch
Easy to use compost bins
After speaking with Ms Squires she has the following advice for schools wishing to go towards zero waste:
- introduce one change at a time
- conduct a waste audit to establish baseline data
- you will need a support group, one teacher is not enough
- kids will hide rubbish, they will need to be held responsible for their actions
- the school found that the eldest students were the least willing to adopt new program
- in regards to littering due there being no bins in the playgrounds: there was a lot to begin with and students tried to hide rubbish in all sorts of places but younger students dobbed on the older students and after six weeks littering was almost non existent
- Prior to the wastewise program littering was mainly caused by birds getting inot the bins, once the bins were removed the birds have left the school
- The cleaners can focus on the more important task
- Major financial savings means more money to spend on educational items for the school
Duranbah Public School
Duranbah Public School is a small school located in the hills behind Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia. They have been involved in the Tweed Shire Council's Wastewise Schools program since 2006.
Initially all their waste went into a two cubic metre skip bin and nothing was recovered; the program has enabled them to recover materials for recycling and composting. After implementation of the Wastewise program the school now has a smaller skip bin emptied weekly and three recycle bins being emptied fortnightly. They also produce on average 3 buckets of food waste for their compost pile each week. This equates to a significant reduction in waste to landfill, materials are now recycled into new products and the compost added to their vegetable garden means more nutritious food is produced. These benefits together with the economic savings of reduced waste collection provide a perfect example of sustainable waste management. The school is now looking to reduce their waste creation even further by implementing the Tweed Shire Council's Litter Free Lunch program. This programs' focus is on parents providing their children with unpackaged meals to reduce the generation of disposable waste. The bonus of such a program is that it promotes the use of fresh, nutritious ingredients as opposed to mass produced items such as crisps and muesli bars.
Students met Costa and talked rubbish
Students placing new signage on a bin