Grampians Regional Waste Management Group: engaging tools for recycling schools

It’s not easy connecting home waste minimisation to primary school education, especially when it’s not kids who do the weekly shopping or food preparation!

We were presented with this challenge by one of our favourite recycling enthusiasts and we really took the opportunity to think differently about how we could help change things in a range of schools across southern Victoria.

When it comes to food and excessive packaging, a lot of our wasteful behaviours actually don’t happen when it comes to bin night. A lot of it has to do with what we buy and then how we manage and prepare our food in the kitchen. For a number of years our client had been using a model of a house to help explain waste and recycling at a household level. When we heard how passionate she was about the whole life cycle of waste generation and the need for systemic and behavioural change, we proposed something a little more exploratory. We were delighted that a discussion that started with the desire to update a model house resulted in a range of adaptable classroom games (that educators call activities) and simple low-cost, light-weight tools that really engage children in the big picture. Or as the Grampians Regional Waste Management Group program might say, rethink waste!

Rather than focusing on a tool, we considered educational goals and the context for activity. We made use of the spaces, general facilities and materials that are available in every classroom as well as a few simple ‘Rethink’ resources (paper worksheets, structural cardboard signs and a simple Smartboard presentation). Working through the steps of sourcing, storing, using, separating and recycling, we created a ‘Rethink supermarket’ concept, adapting their existing brand identity, that involves everyone in rearranging the classroom a little (a great start for hands-on learners). Working off crazy recipes (that of course invite imaginative ingredient combinations), students then go shopping, learning all about how supermarkets are laid out (an introduction to what we call service design) and how food is stored and packaged. This moves quickly into how to get the shopping home, where things go in the kitchen, how to get the most out of what we buy (or grow ourselves) and then, with the help of some green, yellow and red stickers what winds up as compost, recycling or landfill.

While this might sound like a lot, the program is really easy for waste education officers to bring into schools, adapt and deliver, while still being simple enough for schools to replicate if they want. It seems to be working well, as all reports are that the children really enjoy the whole learning experience and that families are really rethinking waste outside of school as well!


Grampians Regional Waste Management Group

Services delivered

• Strategic consulting
• Project management
• Creative direction
• Design
• Production management