How schools get cash for trash

The ACT Container Deposit Scheme is a great way to teach students about sustainability while raising funds. Here’s how two Canberra schools achieved some amazing results.

Competition reduces litter at Canberra High SchoolTrash

“The student-led ‘Green Team’ from Canberra High School set their own sustainability goals, and currently have a list of projects on the boil,” says teacher Benjamin Crossman. 

One of the team’s environmental activities is to organise the collection of empty bottles and cans to deposit with the ACT Container Deposit Scheme (CDS). The 10c refund for each drink container goes back into the school including helping fund the Year 10 formal. So far 38,000 containers have been recycled, earning the school nearly $4,000.

A recent upgrade of their playground bin system has resulted in colour coded recycling bins for each of the school houses, bringing a bit of competition into the mix.

“The kids responded really well to the house bins idea, and enthusiastically recycle their eligible drink containers,” says Ben. “We’ve noticed a big decrease in the number of bottles and cans in the playground, and in the other bins.” 

“The collection drive is student-led, and the Green Team spends considerable effort promoting it through videos and presentations at our school assemblies,” says Ben.  

Members of the P&C are also involved in the initiative, taking the containers to their local ACT CDS return point, run by network operator Return-It.   

Ben adds that students learn about sustainability and recycling in the classroom too.  

“Students also audit the waste on school grounds to identify problem areas and types of litter, and they put what they learn into the design of a fictional theme park as part of their assessment.”  

The school’s next focus will look at how to reduce green waste and soft plastics.  

Students begin a lifelong journey in sustainability at Bonython Primary

Bonython Primary School focuses their learning activities on the natural world and sustainability. When the ACT CDS launched in June 2018, the scheme quickly became part of the school’s sustainability and recycling approach.

“It was a way to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill,” says Deputy Principal Marc Warwick. “We put it to a group of our Year 5 and 6 student leaders who took on the responsibility of developing and implementing a strategy for collecting and returning eligible drink containers to receive 10 cents for each.”

Container return information is incorporated into the classroom too. Marc says students have looked at how many containers have been returned, graphed the amount of waste saved from landfill and the amount of money raised through using ACT CDS.

Funds raised through container refunds support school initiatives.

“In the first year we made around $700, and we put that money towards our Year 6 graduation activities,” says Marc.  

Refunds from the ACT CDS have also supported school garden and sustainability projects where students learn about how things grow and how compost works.

Marc said the garden produce has been used in cooking sessions with students, some has been supplied to the school canteen and some sold at an onsite school market stall.

Join the many schools participating in the ACT CDS

An ACT Government initiative, the ACT CDS has already seen more than 300 million drink containers returned for recycling since launching in July 2018.

If you’d like to join the many schools and P&C associations already participating, there are a number of resources available to get you started. You can download the free Fundraising Toolkit, then check out the free curriculum-linked school resources for early learning to Year 6 developed in partnership with Cool Australia.

Find your nearest return point or check what containers are eligible on the ACT CDS website. And if you need help getting your containers to a return point, contact ReCollect about their container collection service. Email with any questions: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

More information on resources available to help you fundraise with the CDS in this article.

This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 2, 2022

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