An evolving Return and Earn program at St Ignatius’ College, Riverview
Starting on a small scale with an idea from a single staff member, the Return and Earn program at St Ignatius’ College, Riverview has evolved to see the school community recycling at school, at events and at home.
When the program began in 2018, it started with 2 collection bins and students recycling eligible containers from school canteen and everyday use. As the program expanded, new bins were introduced that were customised to have a lock for security and a hole cut in the top for easy container disposal. There are now 6 bins located around the school in central hallways. Return and Earn was successfully introduced to major school events, with the students raising nearly $200 from these and diverting thousands of containers from landfill.
Students assist by sorting containers and transferring them from a central location, with containers being taken to a local depot by the organising teacher, Ms Rebecca Hoad and other teaching staff. Students volunteer to help, signing up via google forms, and an organising teacher contacts them for their scheduled collection duty.
The Return and Earn program has recently been integrated into the school Service Program. Students return eligible containers collected at home, keeping the dockets and providing them as evidence of service. For each $30 raised, students are credited for an hour of service.
So far over $1000 has been raised, with funds going to the school's charitable endeavours, including the Cambodian and Indian Immersion Programs. Through the immersion program, students experience a totally different way of living through the experience of service, traveling to communities, working with Jesuits and other NGOs, fighting against injustice. Since Covid has restricted travel, funds raised are now supporting local Australian charities and supporting options to expand the school’s Environment Committee and Sustainability projects.
While the program has been successful, there are a few ongoing challenges. One issue has been cross contamination, with students placing the wrong items in bins, or removing container labels, which renders them unreadable by the vending machines. Regular communication about correct recycling is needed to ensure this is realised as a problem and resolved. As St Ignatius is a large high school of 1600 students, there is also a challenge when considering the scope of the program, balancing opportunities to expand, with the need to keep the program manageable. This year, the school has engaged a collection company that returns eligible containers for a small fee. Ms Hoad is hopeful that this new system will lighten the workload of transport to Return and Earn kiosks.
Return and Earn is part of the school sustainability efforts to ensure students become responsible environmental citizens. Staff and students are passionate members of the School Environment Committee, which meets during term time. The school Sustainability Policy outlines their commitment to the responsible management of resources; energy, water, waste and biodiversity. The Committee oversees a number of initiatives including Environment Clubs (Regis and Senior), Riverview-walk, Low Waste Wednesdays, energy conservation initiatives, such as installation of solar panels and Carbon Offset program, and environment events such as Sustainable Living Festival, Catchment Walk and Earth Hour.
Rebecca’s advice for schools looking to start their Return and Earn program is to invest in collection bins at the beginning of the program, “having bin lids that have circles cut in the top can reduce other plastics and ineligible containers going in, and is a helpful visual cue for students”. She also advocates reducing the reliance on one teacher by having a small group involved in the program.
Ms Hoad sees the growth opportunities offered by Return and Earn for schools, “It is a great way for students to pay for equipment and raise funds. It costs nothing to take part - start small and get students involved.”
Find out how your school can raise funds and recycle through Return and Earn