Plastic & Waste Free Initiatives
You are pioneering a new culture at your school which can create a ripple effect into the community contributing to a planet free of plastic pollution.
You have learned about the growing, global issue of plastic pollution; the scale, the causes, the impacts and the solutions. To really address this problem, we will need to change the way we operate individually and collectively.
Our choices, behaviours, routines and procedures are a huge part of this shift and this can seem a little overwhelming. However, if we take it one step at a time, persevere, be creative, remember to have FUN and CELEBRATE THE WINS we will make an ocean of difference and enjoy the ride!
Adopting ongoing projects and initiatives helps to keep momentum and energy in our mission. Not only will it vastly reduce litter, plastic pollution and waste sent to landfill but will lead to a general recognition that “this is the way we do things at our school.”
Remember to keep the hierarchy of The 4 Rs in mind with every project that you plan –
Also, remember that there will be a continual flow of new students and staff at your school and therefore it is important that there is sufficient information on hand and continual re-education. There are infinite ways we can educate our peers (including art, drama, short films etc) so try to think outside the box!
The projects and initiatives outlined here are intended as a guide and to inspire more creative thinking.
We encourage you to develop the ideas and adapt it to suit the situation and conditions at your school.
We highly recommend that you measure the quantitative and qualitative successes and challenges of your initiatives through regular audits and surveys. Ask for volunteers – there are sure to be students who would love to take on this role and will do it well.
The Media Team
With each and every initiative, the EDUCATIONAL and INFORMATIONAL COMPONENT is extremely important. We recommend that a student media team is formed whose function is to make sure that all students, staff and families (and even the wider community) are fully informed as to the WHAT, WHY & HOW of this new movement at the school and all new initiatives. This can be achieved via posters, flyers, assembly announcements, school newsletter, student newspaper, notes home to parents and short presentations. The Media Team will also keep everyone updated as to successes, challenges and outcomes as well as promoting new projects and special events.
Nude Food Days encourage students to eat well and avoid bringing unnecessary packaging to school. The packaging is more likely to end up as plastic pollution once it reaches the school so Nude Food lunches are a big part of the solution!
Begin by organising a Nude Food Day by nominating a day and then encouraging parents and students to avoid as much plastic packaging and wrapping as possible. Nude Food days can be held several times a year and as the understanding and popularity increase and outcomes observed you can begin to hold them monthly or weekly until it becomes normal practice.
You can take it a step further by conducting a litter audit and bin audit before and after Nude Food Days which will provide a great measure of the success of the project. Keep a public chart of these outcomes and remember to celebrate the wins and learn from the challenges. More ideas can be found here on the Nude Food Website.
Hot tip! Find out how much your school is paying for waste collection to determine whether you can save money through implementing this initiative.
A huge proportion of plastic pollution in schools (and globally) is food packaging and wrapping. Beeswax Wraps are a reusable alternative to disposable food wrapping. Beeswax wraps can be expensive to buy so we encourage students to make their own using recycled material. Your school Green Team could drive this initiative making sure that every class and every student, not only has a Beeswax Wrap, but also knows about its function and how to use it.
To learn how to make Beeswax Wraps, do an online search which should provide sufficient information. Many towns have people or organisations who not only make and sell them but also hold courses or workshops. Your local council Waste Education Services should have more information in this regard.
Note: This initiative can supplement and support your litter or waste audits and Nude Food initiatives.
Every time you use a re-usable shopping bag – one less bag will end up in the environment or landfill. Your class or year group could start a project aiming to provide every person at the school with at least one re-usable shopping bag. If you make the bags from recycled material from home (like old sheets, pillow slips, doona-covers etc) you will also be conserving resources and diverting other waste from landfill. Boomerang Bags has a toolkit which explains how this is done. You can also turn old school uniform shirts into small, handy bags without any sewing involved. A quick web or Youtube search (No-sew T-shirt Bag) will show you how.
Sort It Out!
Sorting your waste allows you to manage it more effectively. Well managed waste is far less likely to become pollution and is more likely to either safely decompose or to be re-used, re-purposed, repaired, or recycled. You can create waste-stations at your school in classrooms, the playground AND staffrooms! We recommend that you aim to separate the following:
- Food & organics
- Paper & cardboard (clean)
- Soft plastics (for Red-Cycle)
- Cash for containers (check your state/territory container deposit scheme)
- Other recycling
You will need to support this initiative with continual and specific education for ALL STUDENTS & STAFF as to which items belong in which bins. Your local council Waste Services will be very happy that you are doing this and should be willing to support you with information, resources and maybe even funding! (Composting and school garden initiatives are ideal companions to waste sorting)
Part of this education could be to hold regular RECYCLING CHALLENGE competitions at lunch or recess where contestants have to sort various items into the correct containers within a specific time. Weekly winners can be added to a Wall of Fame and announced at assembly.
Re-using & Re-purposing Workshops
As your waste sorting initiative takes shape, you will begin to notice the individual items (and quantities) of waste and identify which of them could easily be put to another use. An obvious one is A4 paper that has only been used on one side. These could be collected and turned into notepads. Some schools have made a whole greenhouse from plastic bottles and others have used plastic bottles as bird-feeders and as reinforcement in concrete retaining walls. Waste items can also be used in arts, crafts and more – just let your inner genius run wild!
NOTE! Make sure you plan what is going to happen to the re-purposed item when it is no longer useful.
School canteens can be a major source of single-use, disposable plastic and other disposable items. There are many alternatives becoming available but often all it takes is a bit of thought and creativity combined with new initiatives and systems. You can begin by having a meeting with your canteen managers to educate them as to the seriousness of the problem and how your class would like the school to become part of the solution. The next step is to conduct a simple audit of all single-use plastic, disposable items and general plastic packaging that is coming into the canteen through their purchasing and how much is going “over the counter” via student consumption. Begin to help them find alternatives starting with the easiest items to eliminate (like straws – check out Straw No More). You may find that your canteen will turn to healthier options and even create meals straight from your school garden! (We can highly recommend you consult our friend Sherene from Food Nasties who has revolutionised many a school canteen)
This is an investigative initiative led by one class (or group) and involving the entire school and which aims to substantially reduce litter/plastic pollution at the school. Plastic Patrol will take place over at least one term but preferably the whole year. The lead class will plan and present the initiative to the school to engage their support. Students in the lead class take turns (in pairs) to conduct a 15 minute daily sample of litter from the playground. They will then sort it into categories (hard/soft plastic, food/non-food) and further, into main items straws, bottles, packaging types etc) and log then items in a document. The weekly amounts are recorded on a large chart which is displayed to the entire school population so that everyone can see if there is a reduction or increase in litter and what the worst items are. The lead class can also hold a report for school assembly each month to remind and encourage support.
This initiative will serve to make local business owners and community members aware of the issue of plastic pollution and how the school is striving to create positive change.
Students approach local shops and cafes and, via surveys, determine their output and consumption of single-use, disposable plastic. They will then engage these businesses to encourage and assist them in adopting environmentally responsible practises and to adopt plastic-free initiatives such as Boomerang Bags, Straw No More and Responsible Cafes.
Bottle For Botol
Bottle For Botol is a social enterprise working with Australian and Indonesian schools to help prevent plastic waste entering our waterways and oceans. For every stainless steel, re-usable water bottle purchased by their Australian partner schools, Bottle For Botol will donate an identical water bottle to a student in Indonesia – paired with a water station. Students will also be put through an educational program about the impacts of plastic on the environment. Read more about their program here.
Plastic Free July
This is a one-month CHALLENGE initiative for everyone in your class, year group or the whole school and which can lead to long-term behaviour change. Everyone involved must pledge to avoid all single-use plastic during the month of July. If that sounds too daunting, you can just nominate which single-use items you will avoid and go your hardest! Plastic Free July started in Perth, Australia in 2011 and is now a global movement! You can register as a school or individual here.
All initiatives have a strong link to the Australian Curriculum and the study of geography in that the initiatives look at places and the relationships between people and their environments. Elements of these programs relate to the natural sciences and humanities and help students understand the world that they live in. These initiatives directly relate to the wellbeing of society and environments and how the quality of interaction can help students become active, responsible and informed citizens.
The knowledge and skills acquired from these initiatives reinforces the need for sustainable practices and allows for students to be active participants in the choices they make. They empower students to become active community members, promote the notion that we are all life-long learners and that we can make a difference to the world we live in.
Get in touch
We can facilitate and coordinate a range of creative events
and activities which will enable your school or community group
to bring positive and lasting change!