School stories on waste education

A bokashi victory

September 2009

Two years ago Victory school had a problem with the large amount of fruit scraps, generated as a result of their involvement in the Fruit in Schools Programme, run by the District Health Board. This programme provides free fruit to students at school every day to boost the children's nutrition levels.

A large-scale bokashi system  provided the answer to their fruit scrap problem. This system takes care of citrus and other fruit scraps, as well as ham sandwiches and all kinds of lunch time food scraps not suitable for other systems.

Nelson City Council donated two large 120-litre drums to the school for use as large-scale bokashi containers. One drum is used at a time and is dug down into the ground in a suitable spot within the school garden. The soil removed to create a hole for the drum is piled around the base and is used to cover the bokashi mix once the hole is full and the drum is removed. This part of the garden is then planted after a couple of weeks. The drums are rotated around the sites in the garden on a regular basis.

Selected senior students are on collection duty for the term. They collect fruit scraps in buckets at the end of the school day and carry them over to the big bokashi drum in the community garden. They usually get about six full buckets of scraps from a total of 18 collection buckets located in each classroom. The students tip the buckets into the drum, pack the food scraps down, and sprinkle in a handful of bokashi compost-zing on top, before making sure the lid is put back on tightly. The school funds the ongoing cost of the compost-zing activator for their bokashi system.

"Before we had the bokashi system, we were having a big problem as there were just too many fruit scraps and our compost bin was overflowing. Also the type of waste was not suitable for composting - some days we just had banana skins, other days too much orange peel. The bokashi system makes it easy," says teacher Judy-Anne.

On the road to zerowaste

April 2009

Primary school kids hold up pumpkins. Waste Education Services (WES) for schools began in 2006 in Nelson. The programme was launched to coincide with the Council’s scheme to collect recyclables from schools, starting with waste audits so schools could see the huge piles of waste they produced in a single day (see story below).

After, students were asked to come up with alternative ideas for dealing with their rubbish, rather than mixing it up and throwing it in the York Valley Landfill. Schools began by setting up systems to recycle paper and card, the easiest items to deal with first. Next came ‘waste-free’ lunches, with WES challenging the kids to reduce plastic food wrapping in their lunch boxes, and taking the message home. Food scraps, the bane of all school caretakers’ lives, were next on the agenda. Worm farms, bird feeders, compost bins and EM bokashi systems were promoted; some schools opted to ask their students to take all their lunchbox left-overs home; one school gives food to Poppy the pig!

One such garden is at Tahunanui Primary School, a school that has recently joined the national Enviroschools programme with a garden designed by the students themselves (picture right).

Now, a new wave is building - students are gardening! At least 12 of the 22 Nelson schools have set up food gardens, many with the help of the nutrition and physical activity fund provided by the District Health Board. Fruit trees are being planted, pumpkins, potatoes and silverbeet flourish; some schools sell their produce to staff and parents, some students serve up delicious soups and salads - the fruits of their labours.

Primary school's one day waste audit causes shock

Tahunanui Primary School was in for a shock when the Nelson City Council’s Waste Education Services (WES) conducted an audit of one day’s waste. Senior students worked with WES facilitator Sarah Langi to create a giant pie chart of one day’s rubbish. Students were invited to sit around the rubbish pie and come up with creative solutions for reducing their waste and keeping it out of landfill.

Rubbish reality

Since January 2007, when the Council provided free recycling bins for all Nelson schools, ten schools have faced up to how much rubbish they make. “It is a very effective way of launching a school-wide programme to reduce waste”, said Sarah. “The pie creates a visual and smelly shock, which focuses everyone’s attention on the enormous amount of waste today’s schools produce. It creates a great deal of discussion, both positive and negative, but definitely brings waste to the forefront instead of being ‘out of sight, out of mind’. If it wasn’t so effective, I wouldn’t do it — it’s a very smelly job!”

Focus on paper

Usually half of a school’s waste is paper, which is the cleanest and easiest product to recycle. WES advises schools to set up a simple system to first reuse and then recycle paper. The students can collect the paper from around the school and take it to the recycling bins. Paper use can be reduced by setting photocopiers and printers to produce double sided copies.Once the paper recycling system is running smoothly, then schools might wish to set up the next system, to establish gardens so food scraps can be composted or, for the bigger colleges, collecting aluminium cans.

About WES and Council's free scheme

The Council’s free scheme providing recycling bins for all Nelson schools gives schools an added incentive to recycle, as putting waste in recycling bins cuts down on the amount spent on having mixed waste collected for landfill. Waste Education Services is run by the Nelson Environment Centre with funding from Council.