St Columba Anglican School

St Columba turn containers into compost and charity contributions

St Columba Anglican School in beautiful Port Macquarie has a strong history of embedding sustainability projects and initiatives into their school – and now they’re embracing Return and Earn to recover resources and fundraise for compost, and causes they care about.

The school began their Return and Earn journey with their 550 primary students in Term 1 by placing collection bins in each of the stage eating areas - but then within weeks faced the disruption of COVID-19. Despite this, they have still contributed to the recovery of resources from over 1,500 containers and raised over $150 in the few weeks of school time they’ve had in Term 1 and 2.

The school’s kindergarten and stage 1 students have raised $124.80 which they have donated to local charity, FAWNA NSW, who coordinate a network of volunteers on the mid north coast to care for animals, birds and reptiles needing rescue. Stage 2 and 3 students have raised $30 towards the purchase of a compost system for the low maintenance garden they’re planning in the coming terms.

Primary teacher, Kylie Rosenbaum, helped establish the program for stage 2 and 3, along with colleagues working with kindergarten and stage 1. “It has been challenging to 're-start' some of our sustainability initiatives due to the uncertainty that COVID presented, however we’re excited to continue to inspire and empower our students to make this world a better place” said Ms. Rosenbaum. “The funds raised so far have helped show the students that each container we collect can make a difference and we’re excited about how the program could grow” she said.

The stage 3 collection bins are sorted by students, and staff sort the containers for stage 1 and 2 - however the school is looking into options for engaging their high school students in the sorting process. Staff return eligible containers each term to the reverse vending machine at their local Coles Supermarket.

In addition to the Return and Earn scheme, the school has prioritised sustainability education in a range of other areas. They ran a highly successful campaign to increase the use of reusable cups at the school café, delivered ‘nude lunch box’ workshops for parents and in-school incentives for students, and undertook a waste audit and a 'march for micro-plastic' where students from the primary school marched around the school searching for any tiny pieces of plastic they could find.

“We’re always looking for ways to introduce new environmental education ideas, and to empower our students to go on their own learning journey” said Ms. Rosenbaum. “At our weekly sustainability meetings we discuss environmental concerns we have noticed in the school or community and how we could take action. A recent concern raised by the students was the use of single-use, plastic bin liners in classroom bins. We’re now repurposing catalogues and old newspapers into paper waste liners that are reused each day by the cleaners. This project involved identifying the problem, brainstorming solutions and communicating the new process to the cleaners, teachers and students.”

In the coming terms, the Return and Earn program will be promoted throughout the primary school through social media, fortnightly assembly reminders, and a committed student team to monitor the use of the bins.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

St Columba Anglican 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

St Columba stage 1

(L) St Columba Anglican stage 1 students show off their collection.    (R) Ready to return and earn!