St Edward's College
Return and Earn Stories
Supporting environmental and social justice projects with Return and Earn
Students at St Edwards College, East Gosford are realising social and environmental benefits from their ongoing Return and Earn program.
St Edwards College have effectively integrated the Return and Earn program with their school environment portfolio and social justice program, the Waterford Project.
The Waterford Project, which emphasises ‘awareness, advocacy and action’, involves students completing a set number of hours of service for others. Participating in environment activities, and the Return and Earn program, are some of the ways students can fulfil their community service commitments.
The Return and Earn program is supported by the College’s executive team, student environment leaders, an enthusiastic school groundsman and a local collection company. Eligible containers are collected from two sources – students are encouraged to recycle containers used at school, and they are also able to bring eligible containers in from home. Students that donate a bag of eligible containers can count this donation towards their community service program, receiving the equivalent of 2 service hours per bag contributed.
Containers are collected in a large cage, provided by the local collection company. In addition to the collection cage, a storage shed is used for extra containers. The cage is emptied on a regular basis, with a service fee (a certain number of containers) charged for the cage hire and collection service. While there are some challenges with waste contamination, students are supported by continuous education about the importance of recycling correctly and their role in living sustainably. The Return and Earn program is promoted through student notices, at assemblies, and via school social media.
The program has been running for 3 years, over 12,500 containers collected and $790 funds raised. The real measure of the program’s success is not about raising money, but rather about the positive impact students can have on the environment.
Return and Earn is one of the many sustainability programs currently operating at St Edward’s College. They have a strong focus on waste reduction, currently implementing “Trash Free Tuesday”. Students are encouraged to bring lunch without plastic packaging, encouraging less waste in the red bins. Participating students are rewarded with points for sporting house, and 2 (randomly allocated) vouchers. Their recent student led Trash Free Mufti Day saw 488 students and 27 staff bringing in a trash free lunch.
Being so close to Brisbane Waters, the school also has a strong focus on reducing their impact on local waterways. Students have participated in partnership projects such as Take 3 for the Sea Youth Summit, and Clean4Shore waterways litter reduction program, with students collecting around 240kg of rubbish in a 3km radius of their local waterway. PDHPE students took part in the “Thirsty Choose Water” lesson competition run through Central Coast Area Health, successfully winning a chilled water filter. Since it was installed in June 2019, the students have saved 60,024 single use plastic containers from ending up in landfill.
Environment Portfolio students are strong supporters of Return and Earn at school. By increasing recycling at school they see the benefits of a clean and tidy school, reducing waste to landfill, and reducing litter in local waterways.