Students champion waste reduction

Release date: 13 November 2023

To celebrate National Recycling Week, we are highlighting how students at 2 NSW public schools have been leading the way to reduce, reuse and inspire their communities. 

Blacktown North and Wongarbon Public Schools have recently participated in a state-wide sustainability engagement pilot program. Each school conducted a waste audit at the start of the pilot in March and a second audit on completion in August.

Blacktown North Public School

Blacktown North Public School now boasts a 75% reduction in food and organics waste and a 74% reduction in paper and cardboard entering landfill. Blacktown North Public School Principal Carmen Cefai said, “students have become eco warriors who contribute to sustainable patterns of living”.  

Student leaders said, "the waste reduction program has taught us which bins the rubbish goes in. There has been less litter and waste in our school. We appreciate having a cleaner school environment".

Teacher Mary Nguyen said "the waste pilot program is more than just an eco-friendly initiative. It's a platform where leadership is born. It shapes our students, encouraging them to think globally and act locally, nurturing responsible citizens for a sustainable tomorrow."

Wongarbon Public School

At Wongarbon Public School the community reported an 87% decrease in total waste (including paper and cardboard) and a staggering 98.6% decrease in food and organics entering landfill.

The project was led by 14 students in years 4-6 who enjoyed having a say in how their waste reduction ideas were brought to life and their impact. "I liked to see that we didn't have much rubbish the second audit," a student said.

Wongarbon Public School Principal Nikki Mudge is grateful to all the staff and committed students involved in the program. "Students understand that improving our environment starts with what we do today. The success of this project not only improves our environment, but also paves the way for a brighter and more responsible tomorrow” she said. 

Wongarbon Public School invested in a chicken coop to minimise food waste. "I love seeing the chickens wander around the playground while we play at recess and lunch" a student said.

SINSW’s Senior Sustainability Officer, Zoe Hutchings has supported the program, reporting that “37% of landfill waste is food waste. Once in landfill, food waste breaks down and emits greenhouse gases, including not only carbon dioxide (CO2) but also methane (CH4).”

“By completing this program, most schools reduced their total waste produced by 1/3 and managed to nearly halve their food waste. The savings in food waste alone are the equivalent reduction in greenhouse gases that would be produced by 11 flights from Sydney to Canberra per school per year!”

The pilot engagement program has shown the benefits and effectiveness of student-led initiatives in reducing waste whilst creating the opportunity for hands-on learning about, in and for the environment.