The Sunshine Coast Waste Wise Schools Initiative
  • Saturday 28 June 2008

The Sunshine Coast Waste Wise Schools Initiative is underway with one class at Tewantin State School literally ‘cleaning up’ in the game with the aim of establishing totally rubbish free lunches by the end of 2008.

In just a few weeks since May when a school-wide recycling system was put in place, cleaners have reported a drop in the amount of waste to landfill from the weekly 33 wheelie bins at the school to just 21 — a whopping 36 per cent reduction.

“All co-mingled recyclables are collected for regular pick up by Council while part of the food waste is being composted into the permaculture garden at the school, or else distributed to chook owners through the tuck shop,” says head of Special Education Services at Tewantin State School, Terri Anne Harris.

The Waste Wise Schools Initiative is a product of the Noosa Integrated Catchment Association (NICA) with support from the Sunshine Coast Regional Council. As part of the broader Noosa Stormwater and Waste Wise Education Program, the Initiative helps schools reduce, reuse and recycle waste, with the goal of minimising waste to landfill.

The initiative was recently launched through a user-friendly website targeting schools with a five-step program towards realising this goal:

1. Commitment

  • Discuss with key stakeholders to identify the issues.
  • Form a task force or action group.
  • Review existing school policies in relation to waste.
  • Adopt an Environment Policy outlining the school’s commitment to environmental sustainability and education through waste minimisation.
  • Sign of a Letter of Commitment demonstrating the school’s commitment towards Waste Wise principles in everyday school practices.

2. Data and Information Gathering

  • Surveys – seek information on waste generation in everyday school operations, contamination in recyclable waste, litter composition, littering behaviour.
  • Audits – sort information on the amount and types of waste, and recycling potential.
  • Mapping – use plans of the school, identify litter hot spots, sites of waste generation, and placement of waste and recycle bins.
  • Integrate the above activities into existing curricular.

3. Develop a Waste Minimisation Action Plan

  • Use the collected data / information to clarify and prioritise issues.
  • Brainstorm on actions required to deal with the issues.
  • Consider the logistics of the plan, including added responsibilities of key staff and any additional resources required.
  • Set realistic goals, objectives and timeframes in an Action Plan for Waste Minimisation, with clear actions and targets to incorporate waste education into school operations.

4. Implement the Action Plan

  • Inform the school community about the Action Plan.
  • Encourage students’ understanding and participation of the Action Plan through awareness activities such as student jingles, awards, posters, presentations.
  • Assign key positions such as recycling monitors, litter patrol.
  • Find support from other stakeholders such as P&C groups.
  • Publicise and promote the Action Plan.

5. Monitoring and Evaluation

  • Regular audits, surveys and data collection for comparisons with baseline information.
  • Evaluate progress and effectiveness of the Action Plan.
  • Consult and discuss with key people for feedback and suggestions.
  • Review and revise the Action Plan periodically, incorporating the lessons learnt through the implementation, and new targets and opportunities.

“Working with schools to minimise waste to landfill is a really direct way of educating the community about sustainable practices in day to day life, and it’s already getting fabulous results,” says Council’s Doug Barnes, one of the projects key supporters.

Other schools that have shown interest in the Sunshine Coast Waste Wise Schools Initiative include Noosa Pengari Steiner School, Noosa District State High School and St. Teresa's Catholic College Noosa.