New costumes funded thanks to empty containers collected at Kingsford Smith School

When teacher Timothy Kirsopp did the math on how many recyclable containers were binned at Kingsford Smith School, he realised they were throwing out nearly $10,000 per year.

“We have 900 students, so if half the kids use one container per day that adds up,” Tim says, adding that poppers and juice boxes are extremely popular with students.

Realising what a valuable resource eligible empty containers can be when returned via the ACT Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) for 10 cents each, he decided to do something about it. Planning began in his first term at the school in early 2021, and by Term 2 the school had six dedicated container bins, loaned to the school by Return-It, the ACT CDS network operator. Four bins are in permanent positions, and two can be moved around as needed, including for events.

While container returns have been slowed by COVID-19 restrictions, the school has already raised nearly $900. To decide how the funds are spent, student clubs apply for a grant. If successful, they help return containers at the Return-It cash-back depot in Belconnen.

So far the school’s Lion Dancing Club successfully applied for $300.

“Over a series of afternoons we took containers back and processed them — and now the club has new costumes,” says Tim. “This gives the students ownership over the fundraising.”

Tim says students across the school have responded positively to the initiative. “We still find litter on the ground, but it’s significantly reduced,” he says. “And after I did a presentation at assembly about container recycling with the ACT CDS, some students came forward and said they’d be happy to help empty bins, even without applying for a grant.”

The longer-term plan, Tim says, is to build up a kitty of $1,000 from the container returns, and then really encourage clubs to apply for grants.

The container returns have also become part of classroom learning. Tim has created a website with graphs showing the number and types of containers that are returned with the ACT CDS, along with a tally of the money earned. Students use this in math class to learn about statistics, data and graphing.

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