School leads in waste war with zero-rubbish policy

A small North East school is fighting the ‘war on waste’ in a big way with their zero-rubbish policy.

Barnawartha Primary School wants to put out its red bin just once a term – and if the progress so far is anything to go by, the students could write the book on rubbish reduction.

Well-being co-ordinator Sharnee Effting brought in the measures in August and between then and October, the 26 students and five staff produced just one bin’s worth of hard waste.

“I follow a few ‘war on waste’ sites and I’m quite proactive at home,” Mrs Effting said.

“We have six people in my house and we’ve gone six weeks without putting the red bin out.

“It’s so the kids are thinking more broadly about what they use and how they can cut down.

“We also wanted to do this as a way to connect the community.”

The school is now a registered public drop-off for the RedCycle and TerraCycle programs – the former takes soft plastics such as bread bags, and the latter recycles beauty products, toothbrushes and similar items that can’t go in standard recycling.

For TerraCycle, Barnawartha is the only drop-off point between Wagga and Melbourne.

These two initiatives allow the school to have a four-bin system; organics, recycling, soft plastic and hard waste.

Mrs Effting said after students picked out what could be recycled or re-used, hardly anything was left for landfill.

“A lot of them said at the start ‘yuck, I’m not touching rubbish’, but really, it’s not dirty,” she said.

“One student said ‘we only have one bin at home, why are we doing this?’ – it gives them that education.

“It’s made us change as a staff group.”

Myah Lehmann, 12, is part of the senior class and has been particularly inspired by Mrs Effting’s teachings.

“I’ve been bringing in cling wrap and bread packaging from home,” she said.

“I thought it was very sustainable for our school.”

Myah recently wrote to McDonald’s, requesting they use biodegradable materials for their meal toys.

“I wrote that it’s important to stop doing the plastic Maccas toys because once they’re used they are basically binned,” she said.

“(We have to change) so later in life we don’t have pollution everywhere.”

Principal Lisa van Noordennen said the zero waste policy aligned well with the school’s values of being ‘safe and responsible citizens’.

“We’re contributing to keeping our oceans safe,” she said. “We’re being respectful to our environment.

“I’m pretty proud of what we have been able to achieve in such as short amount of time.”