Great Lakes College

Reducing school waste at Great Lakes

With the support of passionate teacher Teena Pinnock, a group of Year 8 students at Great Lakes College have been working together to make Return and Earn happen at their school.

Great Lakes College (Tuncurry Campus) have been recycling and fundraising through the Return and Earn program for about 12 months. At the start of the program, MidCoast Council provided them with collection bins to use for container recycling. The collection bins are a smaller size green bin, with a yellow lid, and each allocated year area has their own bin. 

The Return and Earn collection system is operated by a team of Year 8 student volunteers. Each Thursday during roll call, the students collect their allocated bin, bring it to the central collection area, sort through the contents removing other waste, rinse the bins and then return bins to their areas. The students complete these tasks in 20 minutes, then head off to lessons.

To encourage proper waste disposal at school, the Return and Earn bins were slightly modified by TAS (Technical and Applied Studies) staff. The lids were locked closed, and a container size hole was cut in the lid, acting as a physical and visual reminder that these bins are for only for recyclable containers.  In efforts to reduce cross contamination, education and reminders about recycling and waste disposal happens through school notices and during roll call.

The eligible containers are taken fortnightly to the automated depot at the Tuncurry Waste Management Centre by the coordinating teacher Teena. The group currently raises about $50 a month, and while this is a modest amount, they know that it all adds up and it is reducing waste to landfill. The group are working towards their fundraising goal to purchase a water refill station.

Teena has been enthusiastically making environmental projects happen at Great Lakes for the last five years, introducing classroom recycling, organising student workshops on plastic reduction and creating bees wax wraps. Recently the school took part in the MidWaste Green Leaders program, working with a regional mentor to assess and reduce their school waste going to landfill. Focussing on food waste, the school started a new composting system, installing 2 Subpods next to the Food Technology classrooms. Students weigh their food waste to track waste reductions, and have been effectively managing this convenient compost solution. Next term, they are looking to extend the composting system and install new garden beds.

Teena says she would encourage any school considering starting a Return and Earn program to just “Give it a go! It is a good alternate fundraiser and something we could do when other fundraisers could not go ahead”. It is a great talking point with students, giving them an awareness of the role they can play in improving the environment.

Find out how your school can raise funds and recycle through Return and Earn