Talking trash

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Talking trash

                                                              hat happens to a         herself inspired by a free local council
Getting primary school                                        plastic bag when it is   earthworks course which included a
students enthused about                                       carelessly thrown        visit to the tip to see what could be
reducing school waste is                                      away? This was the       recycled rather than put into landfill.
proving an effective form of                                  starting point for          When the school’s canteen introduced
                                                              Grays Point Public       plastic cups, the amount of litter in the
environmental education.                School teacher Kay Moriarty to develop         playground increased. Moriarty intro-
                                        a simple PowerPoint presentation about         duced co-mingling recycle bins and food
                                        the life of a plastic bag and the impact it    scrap compost bins, then contacted
                                        can have on the marine environment.            companies such as Visy to help with the
by Cynthia Karena                         When the story was presented at the          removal of recyclable waste.
                                        primary school’s assembly, it was                 The school is also a part of the Mobile
  Briefly                               especially relevant—Grays Point is on          Muster program which collects mobile
  n Grays Point Public School has       the Hacking River, which feeds into            phones so their parts can be recycled.
  been able to reduce its landfill      Port Hacking estuary, south of Sydney—            Drink cans are another target. In
  contribution by 60 per cent.          and staff and students were inspired to        Moriarty’s Canteen Cash for Cans
  n Solar panels at Ardross Primary     adopt a range of waste reduction               program, students exchange their cans
  School have reduced its power bills   activities.                                    for credit at the school canteen. A bin
  by 20 per cent.                         Many local councils and environmen-          the school put at the next door soccer
  n Australind Senior High School       tal organisations offer resources and          club keeps even more cans out of land-
  feeds green waste from its canteen    help in reducing waste. Moriarty, a            fill. Any extra money from can recycling
  to the school’s chooks.               special reading teacher who is also her        goes towards environmental projects at
                                        school’s environmental coordinator, was        the school. (continues over)

30 Spring 2010 Australian Educator 67
Kay Moriarty’s Canteen Cash
for Cans program encourages
students to exchange their cans
for credit at the school canteen.
                                                      ROMAN MILERT / ISTOCKPHOTO

              Australian Educator 67 Spring 2010 31

                                               “Whenever a child does any good envi-
                                             ronmental activity, they are given a
                                             ‘Froggy Award’ and it goes into a lucky
                                             dip for canteen credit. It’s very motivat-
                                             ing,” says Moriarty.
                                               The school, which is a member of the
                                             NSW Sustainable Schools program, has
                                             reduced its landfill contribution by 60
                                             per cent.
                                             Inspiring visit
                                             In Perth, Ardross Primary School works
Net gains                                    with the Southern Metropolitan
                                             Regional Council.                            “... the children
Internet technology is                          “Our students have visited its fantas-    were indignant
being used in various ways                   tic Regional Resource Recovery Centre
                                                                                          that we didn’t
to help schools become                       to learn about waste recovery from
more environmentally                         yellow-top and green-top bins,” says         have solar
aware and reduce waste.
                                             Year 2 teacher Fiona Schaper. They
                                             learnt, for example, that mobile phone
                                                                                          panels. We now
The new Queensland-oriented                  parts, batteries and ring-pulls from cans    have 40 and our
Sustainable Schools website (www. has
                                             can be used to make joints for artificial
                                                                                          power bill has
online tools and resources to help              The school converted a storeroom into     been reduced
schools research, plan, monitor
and manage their impact on the
                                             a collection point for external reuse and
                                             recycling agencies. Students monitor the
                                                                                          by 20 per cent.”
   The site’s 12-step sustainability         room to check that items are sorted into
plan asks schools to reflect on their        the right piles.
environmental vision, goals and the             “It is the students who drive most of
issues they want to address. A data          our environmental programs,” says            Fiona Schaper
collection tool generates graphs of          Schaper. “When a taxi powered with
progress which allow principals and                                                       Teacher, Ardross Public School
                                             photovoltaic solar panels visited the        Perth, Western Australia
students to monitor resource use             school, the children were indignant that
and expenditure.
   The site, developed by the
Australian Sustainable Schools
Initiative (AuSSI), will initially be used
by 300 schools in the Earth Smart
Science program for state primary
schools. It will then be rolled out to
1000 schools over three years.
   Catalogue Central (www.
encourages students and their
families to say no to junk mail and
access online catalogues instead.
   Catalogue Central donates
fundraising dollars to a school
each time a catalogue is clicked via
the school’s website. Schools can
partner with Catalogue Central and
web-based fundraiser Sponsor-ed to
develop their own website.
   Plenty Parklands Primary, in
Melbourne, is one school whose
website provides a link to
electronic catalogues. l

32 Spring 2010 Australian Educator 67
                                                                                        Your say
we didn’t have solar panels. We now         so the responsibility is not with one
have 40, and our power bill has been        teacher, and we encourage students to be
reduced by about 20 per cent.”              committee members.”
   Having experts visit a school is good
for inspiring students, she says. “We’ve
had talks about wind power, alterna-
                                            Leadership commitment                       Greg Lancaster
tives to fossil fuels, and reducing water   At Balnarring Primary School, in            Science teacher
and waste.”                                 Melbourne, environmental education is       and sustainability coordinator
   Ardross Primary also works closely       embedded in the curriculum.                 Australind Senior High School, WA
with regional and local councils as a         “Our principal is committed and all
member of WA’s Waste Wise schools           classes are studying environmental
program. Each council has a waste           education,” says sustainability
educator who runs activities for schools    coordinator Heather Goddard. “The
and helps them set up recycling of          school’s specialist science teacher plans
batteries and other materials. The          Year 3-6 units covering waste, and the
activities include ‘reduce reuse recycle’   children know they are sending far less
awareness, how to compost and set up        waste to landfill.”
worm farms, and tours of landfill sites.      Goddard, whose role is on a one-day-a-
The program also provides onsite            week basis, says she spends much of the
education facilities, council-specific      time preparing grant applications to
recycling information, a Waste Wise         make the school’s environmental
schools kit, free half-day workshops,       programs happen. “We rely enormously
and ongoing support and advice.             on scrounging money from grants,” she       “Living in a throwaway society,
Schools can apply for Waste Wise            says.                                       where we don’t fix things but buy
grants.                                       “We also have a school services officer   a new product, doesn’t encourage
   “We often face the issue of Waste        who has a time allowance to look after      children to live sustainably. At
Wise teachers leaving,” says Jennifer       our animals—chooks, goats, rabbits and      Australind, we try to make them
                                            guinea pigs. It’s another indication that   understand that everything they
Weston, the program’s community                                                         buy, use and throw away leaves
education coordinator. “We encourage        our program is well supported by our
                                                                                        a carbon footprint. We have a
schools to write a Waste Wise policy so     leadership, which means we are not rely-    long way to go in trying to change
it is embedded in the school culture and    ing on just one enthusiastic teacher.” l    modern consumer culture, but
not with an individual teacher. We also                                                 every small step forward should be
help to set up Waste Wise committees        Cynthia Karena is a freelance writer        celebrated.
                                                                                           You need a whole-school
                                                                                        approach, with structures in place
                                                                                        in case enthusiastic teachers burn
                                                                                        out or leave. Our recycling boxes
                                                                                        and use of green waste are now
                                                                                        embedded in school procedure.
                                                                                        Green waste from the canteen
                                                                                        is fed to the school’s chooks
                                                                                        which then produce eggs that the
                                                                                        canteen, home economics classes
                                                                                        and teachers can buy.” l


                                                                                          Australian Educator 67 Spring 2010 33

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