Students’ Actions Lead the Way in Zero Waste Education

| By Cate Jessop & Kylie Hanlon Judd


Eco Warriors with a Tiny Footprint

When you attend Wakaaranga School Gala, one of the first things you notice is their colourful zero-waste station. The school has been proudly displaying its collection station for four years as a way of highlighting their journey toward zero waste to the community, and to offer an alternative to adding to landfill.

Recycling Centre at Waakaranga School

The idea for the zero-waste station grew from the Wakaaranga Enviroschools Eco Warriors, who were concerned about how much rubbish littered the ground after each Gala. With over 5000 people attending the Gala, this equalled a lot of waste!

With support from their Enviroschools facilitator Cate Jessop, key teacher Kylee Hanlon Judd, and the school’s PTA, the students borrowed the Auckland Council zero waste kit to sort and divert the waste at the Gala, and the decision was made to reduce the size of the waste skip from 9m3 to just 3m3.

“Once you guys decided what you wanted, it was just a case of jumping on board and adjusting our mindset. Less clean up, less cost, more profit – everyone’s happy!” – Jacqui Maclean, PTA.

Wakaaranga School students aged Year 0-6 were invited to become Waste Ambassadors to help the public make good choices about where to put their waste during the Gala. Local secondary school Pakuranga College also came on board to offer teenage support.

Cate and Kylee facilitated a Waste Ambassadors workshop where the children sorted similar waste to what they would be seeing at the Gala, and then role-played how to interact with the public. The first Toward Zero Waste Gala was a huge success, with a dramatic reduction in overall waste (and a reduction in costs too). Less than half the small skip was full!

The public are encouraged by students to recycle.

The students were eager to keep this momentum going, and over the next year the school’s own waste system received a major over-haul. A three-bin system (green waste, recycling and landfill) was implemented in four locations, alongside soft plastics recycling for students and their families.

By the time the next Gala happened, the school didn’t require a skip at all! The school’s own zero-waste station provided a perfect way to collect recycling and waste. A new addition was added for leftover food scraps to be diverted away from landfill, to instead provide dinner for some very happy chickens. The school removed polystyrene containers from the menu, and any leftover Gala items (such as books) were gifted to another local primary school for their upcoming Gala.

Today, Wakaaranga School students are lining up to be Waste Ambassadors at the next Gala and the school’s Waste Ambassador Workshops are empowering both students and staff to do their bit for Papatūānuku. The ripple effect has encouraged the community to rethink what we all do with our waste: at school, at home, and in our shared spaces.

Recycling centre draws the crowds