Recycling isn’t a passing fad at Royal Oak middle school, where students have taken it upon themselves to change the way the school – and the district – manages its waste output.
For four years now, students have taken recycling to the extreme, finding ways to keep paper, plastics and food waste out of the garbage.
The school now diverts 80 per cent of its waste from being tossed in a garbage can, destined for Hartland landfill. Instead, a series of 50 recycling towers are installed around the school
“There’s nothing that the kids or staff bring to school that we can’t recycle or compost,” said Angus Stewart, a teacher at Royal Oak.
Makeshift recycling centres around the school are much more thorough than simply garbage and recycling bins.
The students have different bins for juice boxes, bottles, cans, drink pouches, milk cartons, foam, foil, soft plastic, hard plastic and paper. There are also bins to collect kitchen waste, which is composted and turned into soil.
“The biggest thing that’s happened is the whole feeling around the kids, the teachers, everybody else – they’re now looking for the right place to put something,” Stewart said.
“I hear all kinds of stories of kids getting frustrated going out into the normal environment – malls or parks – and they can’t find the right place to recycle something.”
Royal Oak’s initiative helped the Saanich School District save money. By reducing waste output, they’ve moved from having their garbage collected every week, to once every three weeks.
“Every school in Greater Victoria can now do this. The program we started has been copied by a number of schools,” Stewart said.
Saanich council on Monday was scheduled to reward Royal Oak middle school with an environmental award, as given out annually to Saanich residents and organizations who exemplify what it means to be environmentally friendly.
“What these students are doing is better than what most households and businesses are doing,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, chair of the environmental advisory committee.
“This group of students is setting an example of what’s possible. They set an impressive standard a few years ago, and now they’re doing that again,” Murdock said, referring to the school receiving an Saanich environmental award in 2009.
“When we see schools, and students in particular, taking the initiative for climate action and waste reduction … we know that’s a positive message they’re taking home to their parents, to family and friends.
“And that’s getting conveyed in a way far more powerful than a group of politicians preaching about a new program. These are students taking the initiative to walk the talk.”
Saanich 2013 green award recipients:
-Royal Oak middle school; Green Ridge Crew; Outright Coffee and Tea; Peninsula Streams; Ed, Michelle, Jamie and Jesse Knaggs; and Paul West.