NSW students join the war on waste

Students across NSW are getting in on action to reduce waste and cut down reliance on single-use plastics as part of a new program educating students on sustainability.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said more than 1,000 students across 21 schools are conducting audits on their school bins as part of the NSW Government’s sustainability partnership with the Environmental Zoo and Education Centre (EZEC).

“As NSW adjusts to the single-use plastic bans, schools are the perfect environment to drive important long-term behaviour change around reducing plastics and waste,” Mr Griffin said.

“We’re committed to reducing waste and cutting our reliance on problematic single-use plastics in NSW and, through this new program, we’re asking young people to help us on this mission.

“This next generation of leaders are inspiring their friends, family and school communities to take simple actions to help reduce waste and keep NSW free from plastic.”

As part of the voluntary program, under the supervision of an expert, students create a data set at the start of the term on the type of waste their school is producing before learning how to reduce waste over two terms.

A final waste audit is conducted at the end of the program for the students to understand the impact of their actions on the volume of waste produced by the school.

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said we are teaching students how to better look after the environment and be more sustainable.

“We know that many of our students are passionate about environmental issues and the lessons they learn at school go beyond the school grounds to create positive change for the entire community,” Ms Mitchell said.

“It’s why the NSW Government has invested in our $10 million Sustainable Schools NSW Program. It supports our public schools to implement curriculum linked action to reduce waste and help raise awareness of the importance of looking after our environment.”

As part of the program students are identifying ways their school can reduce waste going to landfill and increase their schools resource recovery - a lesson in the power of the circular economy.

Holsworthy High School Year 9 student Nicholas Scott recently took part in a waste audit and said it has motivated him to think about how he can have a positive impact on the environment.

“It’s interesting to see what ends up in the bin at school, there are items in there that wouldn’t be if we all thought more carefully,” Nicholas said.

“It’s made me think about what I’m putting in the bin, both at home and school, and how I could do more to reduce waste.”

EZEC Georges River teacher Grant Oyston said a waste audit is a unique way for students and entire school communities to grow their awareness around waste.

“We’re encouraging everyone involved to take what they learn outside the school gates and take action in their own lives,” Mr Oyston said.

“We ask students to talk to their parents about what’s in their lunchbox to avoid it ending up in the bin and encourage parents to use alternatives to soft plastics when preparing school lunches.”

The Environment Protection Authority is investing $900,000 to support 17 Sustainability Partners like EZEC to lead projects that help reduce reliance on single-use plastics across NSW.

For more information on these partnerships, visit https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/working-together/partnerships-with-the-epa