Tangaroa Blue was recently invited to St Michael’s Catholic School on Palm Island to run a beach clean-up activity with some of their students, and to see some of their source reduction strategies in action.
Since Tangaroa Blue’s visit a year ago, staff had conducted an audit of the rubbish that St Michael’s was generating, and it was established that the biggest producer of rubbish within the school was coming from the students’ lunches.
Lunch time at the St Michael’s Tuckshop used to consist of a juice that came in a tetra pack with a plastic straw, and disposable plates, cutlery and cups made from either plastic or Styrofoam.
“With 60, sometimes up to 80 students getting their lunch at the tuck shop every day, we were generating quite a lot of waste,” said Principal, Gary Recklies.
St Michael’s has since replaced their disposable lunchtime tableware with reusable items that are washed after meals, and used again and again. Lunch is also prepared daily with the help of community members that are volunteering their time while they are looking for work.PISRP 1
“Preparing the lunches this way is definitely more labour intensive,” said Gary, “but with the support of the community we have been able to pull this off, and have made a big reduction in the amount of waste we are sending to landfill.”
“Before we were filling 4-5 wheelie bins every day, now with our new lunch time routine, we have gotten our daily waste generation down to only 2.”
Deputy Principal, Janet Wigan said that St Michael’s new way of delivering lunches to the students, was also changing the dynamics of the way the students interacted.
“Before when the kids would get their lunch, they would take it off into the playground. Now that they have to return the reusable cups and plates to the tuckshop area, they are sitting down with each other, and interacting with their friends and family members while sharing their meals.”
“Not only has this change reduced the amount of rubbish we are producing, but as the students are all sitting and eating together in one place it has also made the rubbish more concentrated and easier to catch before it blows away.”
Janet also mentioned how staff members at the school are working to educate the children about the benefits of a clean community, and encouraging them to behave as caretakers of their local environment.
“Sustainability is a cross-curricular priority in the national curriculum,” said Janet, “and so it is our responsibility to teach it across all the subjects to ensure that we keep moving towards more sustainable practices.”
Next on the agenda for St Michael’s is setting up a recycling system at the school to divert even more rubbish from landfill.