On 12 September, the SMGS Garden Club conducted a waste audit at our school. The Fruit Explosions is a group of Junior School students who get together weekly, giving up their lunch break to plant, weed, water and harvest fruit and vegetables in the school garden patch.

The purpose of the waste audit was to determine the make-up of waste generated within the school.  Wheelie bins of rubbish were tipped onto a large tarp, and the rubbish sorted into buckets labelled organics, recycling, landfill, unknowns, composites and e-waste. Each bucket was weighed, and upon completion of the sorting, the weights were used to determine which type of waste is mostly generated at SMGS. This data was then used to devise ideas that will encourage more sustainable waste practices within our school, making it healthier for students and staff.

So how did SMGS weigh in?

The waste audit revealed some interesting information. We sorted a total of 48.5kg of waste.  32kg of this was recyclable materials which equated to 66% of the total waste, 9.7kg of landfill (20%), 5.6kg of organic waste (11%), 0.7kg of unknown (2%) and 0.5kg (1%) . It is great that we are already able to recycle so much of the waste produced here at SMGS and we already have processes in place for collecting these materials. Therefore, our focus will be on how we can reduce landfill. Students have come up with some fantastic ideas to help educate our school community, which include: a plastic-free day, creating posters, starting a worm farm and compost.

Leading by example

On the outcomes of having a Garden Club like the Fruit Explosions at SMGS for our students and wider school community, SMGS Junior School teacher and head of the Garden Club, Tavia Taylor, said, “Having a school garden helps students understand the environment and sustainability issues. Students also gain first-hand knowledge of not only how to grow healthy food but how it can be used in everyday meals and help us all to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Head of Junior School at SMGS, Scott Frize, echoed Tavia’s sentiment about the school’s Garden Club, saying, “It is reassuring to see the enthusiasm that our Garden Club, the Fruit Explosions, have shown with this waste audit. It indicates that they are serious about the role that they play in educating us all, not just about healthy food choices, but also sustainable living. Although they are young, they are leading by example, and I commend them on this.”

A little help from our friends

Tavia was pleased with how the waste audit was conducted at SMGS and her passion for educating our students in sustainability is certainly felt and appreciated by the SMGS community.  Tavia said, “The waste produced by our modern society is obviously a concern for future generations. Working with Jules from Bournda Environmental Education Centre and Edwina of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council was a great opportunity to educate our younger students about reducing waste. Once the students got over the initial feelings of being grossed out having to get so up close and personal with the waste, they enjoyed the experience. Edwina was a wonderful help, educating us all about what type of waste can be recycled and how long certain items take to break down. I’m looking forward to working with the Garden Club students to implement some of their wonderful ideas.”

As Tavia mentioned, SMGS received some expert assistance for the waste audit. Of her experience working with the students at SMGS, Edwina Lowe, Waste Administration Officer from the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, said, “What a great experience to be involved in a waste audit at the school. The kids were very enthusiastic, which was excellent to see, and I hope that what they learnt was useful for separating their waste from recycling, both at school and at home.”

Jules Donne from the South East Resource Recovery Group (SERRG) also commended Tavia and the Fruit Explosions on their pursuit of learning more about sustainability and how we can reduce waste at our school. Jules said, “It has been terrific to support Tavia Taylor and the fabulous Garden Club at Snowy Mountains Grammar School in Jindabyne who have taken on the challenge of running a waste audit. It was great to see the photos of the enthusiastic students getting involved in the process. A waste audit is such a great place to start when considering how to tackle the issue of the rubbish we create at school.  I think it allows students to see first-hand that if we separate our waste into different categories, such as recyclable materials and organic material, and then create a way to deal with that waste, we can reduce the amount of rubbish that has to end up in the landfill.”

The future is in good hands

The members of the Fruit Explosions were quite intrigued and engaged in the waste audit process and some of the students’ quotes are as follows:

“I liked weighing everything and writing it down.”

“We had to sort all of the rubbish so we could find out how much waste our school has. My favourite part was writing things down on the clipboard.”

The SMGS Fruit Explosions were featured in the latest Bournda Environmental Education Centre’s newsletter, the sin-bin , for their efforts in conducting a waste audit.

What happens now?

The Fruit Explosions now have enough data to put together an action plan that can be submitted to the SERRG and if successful will be awarded a $500 grant.  So hopefully SMGS will be home to a few worm farms in the near future!

Congratulations to all involved for a job well done. The SMGS community is very proud of you!