Normanhurst Boys High School


Normanhurst Boys High students create change with containers

Normanhurst Boys High School, located in Sydney’s northwest, have embraced Return and Earn and are committed to reducing waste, embedding sustainability and engaging their students in hands-on learning.

The 780 students at the school have been using the Return and Earn scheme since its inception in March 2018. Science teacher and Environmental Committee Coordinator, Michelle Gibson-Garside has championed the schools use of the program along with the forty year 7 to 12 students who make up the school’s Environmental Committee.

“Since we set up the Return and Earn program we have recycled around 9,000 eligible bottles and cans.” says Ms. Gibson-Garside. “There’s a large, metal cage - made from old fencing by our TAS teacher – really prominently displayed near the canteen so students can easily place eligible containers inside.”

The school also collects eligible containers from school activities and fundraising events which aids the promotion of the program to the school community and boosts their container recovery rate and diversion from landfill.

Each term, the Environmental Committee students empty and sort the contents of the cage and Ms. Gibson-Garside deposits the collected containers at their local reverse vending machine. To date, the program has raised $815 for the school and has funded a range of initiatives including providing free cordial to students with reusable bottles, placing paper recycling bins in all classrooms and resourcing the school’s vegetable garden.

The Environmental Committee has also paid their fundraising forward by donating to various charities chosen by the students including the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

As it did for many organisations, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 posed a significant challenge for Normanhurst Boys. Despite collections slowing while home learning was in place, Ms. Gibson-Garside continued to meet online with the students from the Environmental Committee to keep their ideas fresh and to keep the recycling mentality strong even while at home.

“We’re excited to be back at school now and to get the program back up and running” said Ms. Gibson-Garside. “There aren’t many school programs that are profit-making - but Return and Earn is one of them! It’s not just about the funds though, it’s a really positive way for the students to get involved. The boys love the hands-on nature of sorting the containers and the really visual and tangible process of recovering waste that would otherwise go to landfill.”

Looking ahead, the Environmental Committee will continue to ramp up their container collections and carry out other environmental projects like making beeswax wraps and selling them to the school community and taking part in a range of environmental days like National Tree Day and National Recycling Week.

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Normanhurst Boys High School is a proud member of Sustainable Schools NSW, a free program run by the Australian Association for Environmental Education, NSW Chapter.

Find out how your school can raise funds and divert resources from landfill through Return and Earn at

free cordial

Environmental Committee members hand out free cordial to students who have brought a reusable container to school