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I'm a bit done,

But, I'm still going to keep going.


This is literally my mantra when it comes to recycling in schools. I want to share a bit of the journey so far.


When I was up in Maryborough, I asked about why we didn't have paper/cardboard recycling. They said "who would empty it?" So we went and purchased bins. We problem solved, and developed a system for the students about how to empty them and when to empty them. We put stuff in notices etc, the staff were emailed. But it never 'took off' and it wasn't consistent. At that point I felt like it was because the directive hadn't come from higher up, and also because people hadn't adopted it as part of their routine. This went on for 12+ months.


When I came back to Brisbane and started at the school I'm at now, they already had the bins. I asked about when they are emptied, and was told Friday for 1 hour in the morning they are open for collection. I wasn't told by administration. Low and behold when my students came to empty them, the big bin was closed.


I started to think about how to deal with waste as a bigger issue at the time and came up with LOTS of solutions to LOTS of problems. Including starting a Laudato Si Committee. Then COVID hit.


During COVID, staff were incorrectly using the bins. At this point, a colleague and I were brainstorming how to streamline the collection. We consulted with admin, and decided to purchase 5 larger bins to be placed in strategic locations for collection. Each bin was an 80L yellow bin. The students in our committee made posters and videos. I was told that on the last staff meeting I would have an hour with staff to run through how the system would work.


Then, we were told that all recycling bins would be removed because of their misuse. And I was told that the 1 hour with staff that I would get would now be used for marking instead of as a meeting. We went and talked to admin again about the new bins we just purchased, and said that we just needed some 'air time' with students and staff to make sure people used the bins properly.. and then they informed us that the ones we purchased would be too heavy to lift, and we would need bin liners.


So the team got together and discussed. We didn't want plastic ones, but buying reusable ones was too expensive. I ended up making a pattern for some bin liners from calico that could be lifted out of the bin as per what admin wanted.


So this week I spent 10+ hours sewing these bin liners. And I am just about to go to another meeting to see if this plan is going to work. But I go this time with little hope.


Why is recycling so hard?


The most frustrating part of this whole situation is that, our students are the ones that are asking for these changes. The students KNOW that they should be recycling. They KNOW that recycling is good for the environment. But the can't understand why the bins were taken away, why it has taken a whole year to come up with a solution that may not even work... and why it was the actions of teachers that caused the bins to be taken away from them.


It again comes back to routine, role-modelling and culture. It is clear that in both places I have worked, the culture around caring for the environment doesn't exist. And it is a long haul struggle to get the culture to shift.

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  © Alice Carwardine 2020 from Overturn the Tables.