Schools wage their own “war on waste”

Many NSW schools include environmental initiatives as part of their learning inside and outside of the classroom. Hennessy College in Young has joined in on the action looking at how they can integrate Return and Earn. We also look at Take Me Outside NSW, a new program for teachers and the community.

students making cardboard straws

Cardboard straw making for Hennessy’s canteen.

Hennessy Catholic College is a NSW co-educational school located near Young in the Hilltops region, about two hours from Canberra.

Maths and Science teacher Victor Varela-Leroy told EPA Connect that the school adopted “War on Waste” as their slogan in Science Week 2018 and their quest continues.

“We recently tasked the students in our Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths elective to design and construct a recycling cage so we could take advantage of  Return and Earn,” Mr Valera-Leroy said.

“The proceeds from Return and Earn will be donated to charities such as Take 3 for the Sea which aims to reduce human impact on our shores and rivers.”

Students have also worked with the canteen staff to introduce compostable containers and paper straws, which are currently being trialled and staff have started recycling printer cartridges through Planet Ark.

Student interview being recorded

Year 10 Hennessy students attended the Join the Climate Conversation inaugural conference in Yass

Students in Years 7-10 are involved in the cross-curricular ‘Blue’ program, inspired by the acclaimed Australian documentary Blue. They’re exploring the impacts of human activities including industrial-scale fishing, habitat loss, ghost nets, ocean acidification and the impact of plastic pollution on marine life, particularly sea birds.

“Despite being hundreds of kilometres from the sea, our students well understand that we are all connected to the sea,” Mr Varela-Leroy said.

“Years 7 and 10 students are looking at our ocean systems, climate and ecological impacts through creative writing, poetry, mathematics, geography, religion, art, science and virtual reality.” 


“It’s a shocker to see so many cans and bottles thrown out in huge amounts, particularly after public events” - Ailish (Year 10).

“It’s so easy to do and it helps everyone. Why is it so hard?”- Liam (Year 10).

“All we ask is for a few bins to be dedicated... and we’ll do the rest” - Ryan and Nelson (Year 11).

“Is there a way we can make plastic safer without compromising people’s livelihoods?” - Ryan (Year7).

More than 1.5 billion containers through Return and Earn!

Ernie the Return and Earn wombat

Ernie celebrating the 1.5 billion milestone.

Schools like Hennessy College have contributed to Return and Earn’s amazing achievement of more than 1.5 billion eligible containers returned in just over 16 months since the scheme started.

That’s enough returned containers to

  • Wrap around the coastline of Australia six times
  • Make 124 return trips from Sydney and Melbourne
  • Travel more than halfway to the moon.

More info: visit Return and Earn

Take me Outside comes to NSW

Melissa Sellen from the Australian Association for Environmental Education NSW writes

The benefits of getting kids and young people outdoors are well researched - connection with nature, learning about their environment, encouraging healthy lifestyles, and of course, play!

children and teachers inspecting sea grass beds

Supervised community visits to inspect seagrass in Lake Macquarie.

There are lots of options for children to take part in short or single-day outdoor environmental events. But what if there was a program that supported schools and community groups to develop an outdoor project with greater long-term impact that their families and community partners could help deliver?

This is where Take Me Outside NSW comes in. The Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) NSW is proud to be bringing the new program to NSW in 2019, with thanks to a NSW Environmental Trust grant, and with permission from the hugely successful Take Me Outside Canada.

Take Me Outside NSW will offer a 'one-stop environmental-shop' for teachers, educators, community volunteers, and state government and council staff to connect and develop programs and activities to help young people get healthy and active in our environment.

The project will have a website, social media channels, resources and project planner available online in Term 2, 2019.To find out more, email

The EPA is now a corporate member of the NSW Chapter of the AAEE.