St Gertrude’s declare war on waste

Students and teachers at St Gertrude’s Catholic Primary School Smithfield have begun a battle with excess rubbish.

The school has instituted waste-free Wednesdays and other sustainability measures following a Year 4 combined English, Science and Religion unit that encouraged students to consider their stewardship of the environment.

“We watched War on Waste, and there was a discussion about whose responsibility waste is – the company who are selling it, or us, buying it,” explained Year 4 teacher Tony Pemberton.

Keen to encourage students in thinking this through, Mr Pemberton and other staff organised for them to conduct a TV-style experiment in their own playground.

Year 4 students Angelina Mounarath and Tau Lapa with their new waste-free lunchboxes

They photographed their own lunches, noting large pieces of fruit wrapped in plastic, then gathered the rubbish from the whole school’s classroom bins and sorted through it.

“We had 16kg of just food waste, and six large wheelie bins chock-a-block with plastic – straight away we knew there was a major problem,” Mr Pemberton said. “Students were really worried about it, and wanted to come up with solutions.”

Students and their teachers decided to begin with school-wide waste-free Wednesdays, and spoke to the rest of the school at a Term 3 assembly about the positive ways reducing plastic in their lunchboxes could impact the environment.

Wednesdays officially became rubbish free this term, and the initative has already had a big impact on the whole school community. Many students have significantly reduced the amount of plastic-wrapped, single-portion snacks in their lunch box every day of the week.

“We bring more containers – instead of putting a sandwich in a plastic bag, we can put it in a container which will reduce the plastic,” said Year 4 student Angelina Mounarath.

“If we want chips, we just get a big bag and put it in a container – then it’s just one bag, with no more plastic.”

Religious Education Co-ordinator Maria Panuccio said the program has already reduced rubbish, and believes this is in part because Year 4 students have led the call for change.

“As teachers we’re forever saying ‘ok, stop your play we need to pick up your rubbish’. But if it’s not coming from them, they’re not really going to value it,”

“Now the students have taken it on board, they’ve taken their own initiative to do it.”

Students are hoping that the program can expand, and would like to introduce improved recycling facilities and a school composting system.

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