Belair Public School, based in Adamstown Heights NSW, is leading the way when it comes to sustainability and waste reduction. Inspired by the War on Waste TV Series, a group of students wrote a letter to their Principal wanting to take action to reduce the amount of waste the school sends to landfill. After implementing a three-bin system for mixed recyclables, compost and general waste, Teacher Emily Allars noticed that most of the waste in the general waste bin was soft plastic packaging from school lunches, snacks and the canteen.
Determined to reduce this waste stream, the school implemented the Plastic Police® program. To involve the students, Ms Allars started the ‘Belair Waste Warriors’; a rotating group of student volunteers to contribute to the success of the program, by encouraging other kids to recycle their soft plastics and ensure that no food scraps are ending up in the plastic bin. In less than a year, the school has saved nearly half a tonne of soft plastics from landfill through the program. This equates to around 125,000 pieces of plastic packaging!
In addition to landfill diversion, the program has played an important role in education and behaviour change. “Perhaps the most positive outcome has been the response of the younger students, especially Kindergartners. They come to school and see all the things we are doing for the environment and to be more sustainable. They take these learnings to their parents and want to start recycling soft plastics at home too.” Ms Allars said. “We are now seeing around 50 families a week bringing in their soft plastics collected from home.” Scentre Group, owner of nearby shopping centre Westfield Kotara, are helping Belair ‘close the loop’ on the soft plastics collected at the school by purchasing products made from the soft plastics. Scentre purchased 179 car wheel stops which have been installed at its newly renovated Westfield carpark. Scentre have also donated two bench seats to the school. “The kids are really excited about the bench seats. They want to know what happens to their chip packets and snack wrappers, so the bench seats will enable them to see what they have helped achieve.” Ms Allars said.
One of the cornerstones of the Plastic Police® program is to reduce the amount of soft plastics being used. This is due to the sheer amount of soft plastics being generated, especially as most are used once and then thrown away. In response to this, Belair encourage parents to pack lunches in reusable containers and reduce the use of items such as cling wrap and plastic bags. Belair is proud of its achievements to date and the enthusiasm it has received from students, parents and the wider community. Ms Allars encourages others schools interested in reducing their waste to implement the Plastic Police® program, and to ensure a team-based approach involving students and parents in the program is used for maximum success.
✓ 500kg of soft plastics diverted from landfill
✓ 125,000 pieces of soft plastic collected by students, parents and teachers
✓ Reduction in litter on the playground
✓ Positive feedback from parents and the community
✓ Educating students about environmental issues and the importance of recycling
✓ Encouraging students to participate the War on Waste
✓ Positive behaviour change: students, parents and teachers now recycling soft plastics