Skipping bins at St Mary's

One Catholic school has taken the war on rubbish a step further.

Skipping bins at St Mary's

St Mary’s Primary School at Warners Bay has gone ‘binless’ in an effort to reduce waste, increase students’ environmental awareness and save money.


In fact the school is estimating a whopping annual saving of $10,000 thanks to the new binless campaign. According to one of the driving forces behind the change, teacher Sue Porteus, this is just one of the numerous benefits the school has gained from its fresh approach to waste disposal.


“When we decided to remove the garbage bins from the school there was a general buzz around reducing waste with other schools doing nude food days and similar things,” Ms Porteus said.


“But this actually all started when we were doing building work in the school and the children couldn’t access the skip bin for a few months.


“We asked for help from parents and got the children to take their rubbish home with them.


“It worked so well and we immediately recognised a reduction in waste and the impact that had on the budget, with the school spending about $1,000 per month to empty the skip bin.”


Ms Porteus and principal Linden Jones-Drzyzga saw an opportunity to improve the school’s environmental sustainability and to save money. After much research and discussions with staff, parents and students, the school went binless in term 4, 2013. The playground now has eight recycling bins, four compost bins and no garbage bins. Students are encouraged to bring food in reusable containers and any food wrappers must be taken home for disposal. The school even has separate eating and play areas to make waste monitoring easier. And so far the change has been a positive one with all the money saved going towards school resources for the new curriculum.


“The school community has really embraced the concept; in my opinion it has been a huge success,” Ms Jones-Drzyzga said.


“The children are now environmentally aware of how much waste actually goes into landfill and what they can do to reduce it.”


Financial savings, greater environmental awareness and a cleaner playground are the obvious benefits of the change but Ms Porteus said parents also experienced benefits.


“Parents now know what their children are eating and what they aren’t eating because they have to take their wrappers home, even if it is a lunch order from the canteen,” she said.


It was also calculated that bin duty, where students empty the garbage bins, was taking children out of class for a total of eight hours per term, which is no longer the case.


The change to a binless school was not without its challenges. According to Ms Porteus it took time for students to get into the habit of taking rubbish home, with many teachers finding the odd wrapper stuffed behind a drain pipe or other inventive places where rubbish shouldn’t go. The Year 6 students even became activists against the binless school idea, putting together a petition to get garbage bins reinstated. After running a stronger, more informed student awareness campaign the petition was quickly removed. What do students think now?


“It is a lot better!” Year 6 student Bayley Thurston, 11, said.


“Before, the bins were overflowing and there were crows and some (not the crows) were even tipping over.


“Now we take our rubbish home and we remind the younger kids not to litter.”


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