“With the amount of waste increasing in Australia by nearly 8% a year, it’s time for us, as a nation, to seriously re-examine the ways we consume and dispose of consumer items?’
GERRINGONG PUBLIC SCHOOL IS BUILDING ON THE SUCCESS OF THEIR GRAND CHAMPION KREATIVE KOALA COMMUNITY PROJECT AND TAKING THEIR LEARNINGS NATIONALLY WITH AN INVITATION TO BE A MODEL SCHOOL IN SERIES TWO OF ABC TV ‘WAR ON WASTE’
Gerringong Public School and science teacher Sue Hassler catapulted themselves into the pilot program of Kreative Koalas with an unmatched enthusiasm to learn more about recycling and waste management, and in doing so won the award for best community project.
Their creation combined their artwork, Captain Koala, with a TerraCycle Drop-off point. “Our project is unique because we have combined our koala into our community project,” the school said. “We have turned this object into a purposeful and decorative addition to our school. We hope to inspire better knowledge of and involvement in recycling, especially through the provision of this collection point for hard to recycle items such as toothbrushes, Nescafe coffee pods and pump dispensers.” Last year we collected over 60,000 Terracycle items which the school receives 1 cent per item for, this money comes back into the school to help with our sustainability work.
Gerringong Public School won $500 for their efforts but the longer-term applications of their learnings are what makes this such as successful project.
Gerringong Public School was supported by legends local artist Penny Sadubin and Sustainability Ambassador Jaime Lovell through their Kreative Koala journey
During the Kreative Koalas journey the school participated in a plastics audit and was astounded to collect 822 pieces of plastic including chip packets, snap lock bags, clingwrap, foil and muesli bar wrappers. A second audit found an additional 494 pieces of plastic in the school’s water easement. These plastics became the focus of the school’s war on waste.
“I realized that every syllabus or curriculum had an underpinning in sustainability and nearly every topic had some direct content related to the environment,” Mrs Hassler said. “I showed the students Mission Blue with Sylvia Earle, and then we talked about plastics; their break-down periods, where they come from and why they are a problem. Then we looked at their lunchboxes and how we could minimise plastics in them. We saw a huge change in lunchboxes and there is now a lot less clingwrap, for example, coming into the school.”
Gerringong Public School then overhauled their bin system. Now waste is separated into paper, foil and hard plastics, Terracycle (chip and muesli bar packets)and landfill. “With a school of 430 kids we’ve gone from filling 21 landfill bins each week to four and they are usually only a quarter full,” Mrs Hassler said.
In addition, the students made beeswax wraps as an alternative to cling wrap and Ziploc plastic bags, which can take five hundred years to break down. So successful was this part of their war on waste that parents began asking for after-school workshops to make their own. The school canteen also came on board with eco-cups, metal spoons and a reduction in the use of foil, and recycling bins were put in the staff room and library.
The school has been very successful in educating and engaging their local community using Facebook, school newsletters and their local newspaper The Bugle with Captain Koala now becoming a community teracycle facility
“It’s an ongoing process of watching what the waste is and it takes a long time for people to understand that what you’re doing is important,” Mrs Hassler said. “There’s no point in teaching literacy and numeracy if we’ve wrecked our environment in the meantime. It becomes about starting independent action with nine and ten-year olds and that’s just gold for me. I’ve got kids who’ll come to me and say, ‘On the weekend, we picked up all these plastics on the beach’ and I feel like they do get it and they’re implementing it in their own lives and making a difference.”
Gerringong Public School is a shining example of the power of collaboration to take courageous steps to create change. Though driving of change may start with one champion, it is the movement, and in this case the students who are everyone’s future, who will make it a reality.
Kreative Koalas focus of collaborating with thought leaders who back the next generation of young people who are going to rethink the world and create a better future is something we can all be involved in and be proud of.
See what all our Courageous Kreative Koala schools are doing here
Watch this space for more on the adventures of Captain Koala