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Plastic is Drastic – Soft Plastic Collection

2016, WARRNAMBOOL, VIC, Australia

In 2016 Warrnambool Special Development School (WSDS) students Destiny Miller, Zander Currie, Caleb Cocking and Caleb Mathews placed in the final competition for their proposal Plastic is Drastic. They saw that they could make a bigger difference in the recycling of plastics at their school by putting strategies in place to dispose of ALL plastics in a sustainable way.wsds-soft-plastic-collection

In Australia we use around 5 billion plastic bags each year. 150 million of these in up littering our environment harming our waterways and our wildlife (Clean-up Australia Day).

WSDS has always recycled hard plastic, such as plastic bottles and yogurt containers but soft plastics always went to land fill, such as plastic wrap and plastic bags. The students did some research and found there was a local business that collects these ‘soft plastics’ for recycling and re-use.

As a result the school has put the following policies in place indefinitely to help reduce plastic going to landfills and into the environment:

  1. Educating students and teachers in the school about the damage that plastic can cause when dumped into landfill polluting not only our water catchment but our oceans too.
  2. Continue to discourage the use of plastic through regular rubbish free lunch days, promoting the use of re-useable plastic containers in lunchboxes and promote rubbish free foods, clearly labeled bins in each classroom and the introduction of the ‘Recycled Scarecrow’ competition.
  3. Implement a soft plastic collection throughout WSDS via 3 central locations around the school where each class can take their soft plastic at the end of each week. While at the end of each term the bags of soft plastic are collected from each location and taken to a local collection centre where they are compressed and then taken to another location for recycling and re use.
  4. Encourage and advise families in our school to minimize the use of plastic in the home and how to dispose of it in a sustainable way when they do have it via our school newsletter.
  5. Inform the wider community that ‘Plastic is Drastic’ through ‘Kids Teaching Kids’ days in Warrnambool, so far taking our message to 6 other schools in our catchment. We conduct two workshops called ‘Plastic is Drastic’ watching an iMovie about why plastic is drastic and making ‘recycled scarecrows’ using plastic we collect that would go to landfill otherwise.

The students believe these are really easy strategies to implement in any school and encourage all schools to follow suit.

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Food Wastage

2016, KANIVA, VIC, Australiatime-to-give-a-fork-about-food-digital

Remmi King and Tavie Goodwin from Kaniva College placed in the top 10 of all the entries submitted in the Australian competition of Caring for our Watersheds with their proposal about wasting food. They wanted to reduce organic food going to landfill and thought the best way to so in their community would be through education.

Remmi and Tavie discovered that amazingly, the average Australian household wastes up to 345kg of food a year, most of this ending up in landfill. At the same time, when organic food rots in landfill it creates methane, a harmful gas to us and the environment.

They figured if they reached out to their local community via their school classrooms they could directly influence 250 households with the potential to reduce 86,250kg of food going to landfill. This is a huge number and this is just our small community; the project could definitely grow bigger and go into other parts of our catchment.

The idea was to create a fun comic to teach people the facts about wasting food, through the costs both economically and to the environment. This comic was linked into the cooking classes at the school. These were specialized classes teaching students how they can save food from going to landfill by giving them ideas about how to use left overs and create shopping lists so less food goes to waste. Sending this comic home with them after the class ensures the message gets taken home to their families.

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In 2014 Kaniva College students Louise Hobbs, Jaden Hendy, Duncan Shalders and Luke Grosser took first place in the final competition for their proposal #KanivaWater. Since then, Louise and Jaden have been working tirelessly to put their idea into action. Their idea consists of providing their town with free, fresh drinking water to reduce the amount of plastic bottles purchased by the local community and visitors.

Kaniva is known as a highway town. Located on route between Melbourne and Adelaide, thousands kanviawater
of people pass through Kaniva each day using this small country town as a rest stop. The students saw this as an opportunity to help the community and visitors reduce their impact on the environment by helping them to reduce or even stop buying plastic bottles.

Bottling water produces 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and it takes 3L of water to produce just 1L of bottled water. Additionally, 2015 figures showed over 40% of litter picked up throughout clean up Australia Day was plastic.

Until now Kaniva had no free potable water in town, so the only option for the community or visitors was to purchase bottled water.To address this issue, a water filter and fountain were installed on already established rainwater tanks at the Purple Starfish on Kaniva’s main street. After numerous tests by community partner GWM Water, Louise and Jaden officially opened the #KanivaWater fountain on November 2nd 2016.

Their project has also been set up to educate people about this important issue and solution via social media, hence the # in the title. You can continue to follow their journey on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter by searching for #KanivaWater.

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Environmental Empowerment

2015 Portland, Victoria, Australia
students playing fishing game
Students from Bayview College in Portland were finalists in the 2015 Caring for our Watersheds competition, with their proposal called Environmental Empowerment.

Nathalia Crowe, Meg Saunders, Marlie Malone & Sarra Hill came up with an Environmental Education Program to teach younger students about their environment. They collaborated all their classes’ final ideas for the 2015 CFW competition into one educational program to raise awareness about their classes concerns.

They held a kids teaching kids day with the year 7 students at Bayview College running a range of environmental activities which focused on:before and after learning list

  • Overfishing
  • Biodiversity in our backyards
  • Litter and recycling
  • Water pollution
  • Local lagoon.

With constructive feedback from the year 7s the girls now plan to implement the program into the local primary schools as well.

This program is not only a fun filled day of environmental activities but it is teaching younger generations to care more for what is around them and how to look after their catchments environment now and into the future.


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Sustainable Food Garden

2014 Portland, Victoria, Australia

Students from Portland Secondary College were finalists in the 2014 Caring for Our Watersheds competition, with their proposal to implement a Sustainable Food Garden that would help supply the community kitchen connected to their school.

This kitchen is used by hospitality students from Portland and Heywood Secondary Colleges, the Re-engagement center and community at large.

The garden has multiple benefits including: reduction in the purchase of packaged goods, less food waste, and increased biodiversity in the Portland community.

Thanks to the Caring for our Watersheds program and community partners the students were able to:

  • Construct eight raised garden beds filled with edible native and common food plants.
  • Set up an organic waste recycle system with composting and chickens to sustain the garden and minimize waste.
  • Conduct native tree and shrub planting around our school to increase biodiversity in the corridor.

The garden has now been in full swing for several months with students maintaining and using the seasonal vegetables and herbs. The students are also composting their food waste and collecting eggs from the chicken coop!

Regular bird monitoring also takes place to keep track of the wildlife within the school grounds.

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Students Stop Organic Waste From Going Into Landfill

2013 Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia

The Environmental Action Team at Warrnambool Special Developmental School, (WWEB Patrol), was a finalist in the 2013 Caring for Our Watersheds competition.

The students realised the potential of reducing the amount of rubbish going into landfill by stopping organic waste entering the equation. They knew that by removing organic waste from landfill bins the amount would be reduced but they wanted to know by how much.

Firstly, over a ten week period, the students measured out a total of 172kg of organic waste entering landfill. From this, the students decided they would redirect the organic waste in a sustainable way, by obtaining compost bins and worm farms.

A number of ‘kitchen caddies’ were purchased and placed next to the rubbish bins to help remind people that they should be putting organic waste in these bins, to be later composted and used on the vegetable garden at school, or put in the worm farm to create worm juice, or simply fed to the school chooks.

Not only did they redirect the organic waste they also aimed to educate the school community on a weekly basis. Each week the school newsletter continues to give hints and tips for recycling at home and also informs parents of the student’s efforts at school, in terms of sustainability.

One student says, “Our project is ongoing and continues to grow. This has been made easier and more effective with the generosity of the Caring for our Watersheds program.”

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2013 Kaniva, Victoria, Australia

Students from Kaniva Community College were finalists in the 2013 Caring for our Watersheds competition, with their proposal of an Environmental Week held at their local school.

The aim of this week was to create awareness within the school of: the amount of power and gas being used, the way people dress to keep warm, people’s habits of opening and closing doors, packaging of lunches, and social issues surrounding technology and being sedentary in the classroom

The student’s idea was to have a different theme on the five different days of the school week.

  • Monday- Walk to School Day (walking school bus)
  • Tuesday- Casual Clothes Day (dress warmly, no heaters used on that day at school, gold coin donation to help purchase the trees for planting)
  • Wednesday- Nude Food Day (no rubbish in the lunch boxes of all students and teachers! This day also included a rubbish pick up during the day.)
  • Thursday- Tree Planting Day (native plants planted around the school grounds to provide habitat for native fauna.)
  • Friday- Minimum Energy Day (at the school and the wider community – no heaters or lights on at the school and an electronic free lunchtime.)