In recent years a range of campaigns, media, movies and TV specials, such as ABC’s War on Waste, has shifted our focus towards creating sustainable environments. In schools, students are becoming keenly aware of the challenges we are facing due to society’s dependence on disposability and convenience. It is our children who will inherit a planet overflowing with waste produced and discarded, most of which ends up in our oceans and waterways.
In late 2020, the Western Australian government announced a roadmap to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics, specifically:
- A range of single-use plastics to be phased-out in Western Australia
- Education programs to support transition to a cleaner environment
- World Wildlife Fund-Australia (WWF-Australia) hails WA as a plastic-free national leader
- 98% of people surveyed want further action on plastics.
The Plan for Plastics (PfP) will be rolled out in two main stages.
- Regulations will be developed and implemented by late 2021 for the State-wide phase-out of plastic plates, bowls, stirrers, polystyrene take away food containers, cutlery, cups, thick plastic bags, helium balloon release, and straws.
- After these initial short-term actions, the State Government will phase-out microbeads, coffee cups/lids, polystyrene cups, cotton buds with plastic shafts, barrier/produce bags, polystyrene packaging and oxo-degradable plastics by late 2022.
Please note that “compostable plastics” are not seen by the WA government as environmentally friendly products as “compostable plastics” contaminate plastic recycling, end up in landfills to break down and release methane gas, and cannot be composted in home cold composts. They only break down if they are sent to industrial composters, but many schools and cafes do not purchase the service of having the “compostable plastics” picked up for composting by the provider. Better alternatives include choosing reusable packaging or cardboard packaging. The WA Plan for Plastics will be banning products labelled as “degradable, oxo degradable, biodegradable or compostable.”
Waste Wise Schools
The Waste Wise Schools program provides support to schools across WA to promote responsible waste management behaviours, with a focus on waste avoidance and recovery. It offers resources and support for schools to implement projects such as recycling, composting and worm farming. Many schools find these activities provide meaningful, hands-on learning experiences that are linked to the WA Curriculum. Waste Wise promote several great case studies on their website:
- Ardross Primary School canteen use reusable lunch order bags, rather than traditional paper bags. Whilst they still offer both, around 60% of students use the reusable bags
- Cornerstone Christian College admit “it’s taken a while to get high school students to do the right thing, but with a portion of the Waste Wise grant money the school now has colour coded bins located throughout the school to recycle paper and glass”
- Goldfields schools – a number of schools collect scraps from the canteen for worm farms
The following resources from Waste Wise Schools may be helpful in managing lunch time waste at your school:
- Starting a Green Canteen to avoid and recover canteen waste
- Running Waste-free lunch activities at your school
- Plastics and Packaging Q&A with Joanne O’Connor from the WA Single-Use Plastics Team
Plastic Free July is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation. The website has some amazing resources for schools, including posters, success stories, social media images, videos and more
The Star Choice™ Buyers Guide has a range of suppliers offering cardboard and bamboo, to meet your canteens packaging or cutlery needs. See the Product Database for all the information.