STUDENTS at two schools in Bendigo are sitting proud after being named as winners of the Coles Sustainability4Schools competition.
St Francis of the Fields Primary School in Strathfieldsaye and Epsom Primary School were among 81 primary schools across Australia to be recognised through the competition.
As a reward for their efforts, the schools is now the proud owner of a new Buddy Bench, donated by supermarket giant Coles to mark its 10-year anniversary with soft plastics recycling organisation REDcycle.
St Francis of the Fields students were rewarded for its waste collecting systems which have reduced the size of landfill bins from 60 litres to just seven litres, while Epsom Primary School was recognised for its Green Magpies, a student-led eco-friendly team dedicated to protecting the environment.
St Francis of the Fields Primary School principal Tim Moloney said the school was delighted to receive a buddy bench made from soft plastics.
"Our students are educated around waste collection systems and take action around the school to divert waste from going into landfill through recycling, compost bays, worm farms and using plant-based packaging in our canteen," he said.
"We're currently trialling soft plastic bins in classrooms so it's great to receive a bench made of 98 per cent soft plastics so that students can see the end result of their recycling efforts."
Epsom Primary School's application was submitted by grade six student and Green Magpies leader, Ava Dangerfield.
"The Green Magpies meet up two days every week and discuss things we can do to maintain and continue to improve sustainability in our schoo," she said.
"We are all about student agency and we believe in using our own voice. We are encouraged to give opinions and help with planning what's next."
Ava said they had introduced strategies like giving the classrooms tiny landfill bins, large recycling, organic and worm bins.
"(We have also) built veggie gardens with our grounds person; sold Boomerang Bags, built a nest (garden shed) to house our tools; created signs to remind the teachers to turn off the lights, conducted water testing for leaks and water audits to save water," she said.
REDcycle founder Elizabeth Kasell said she had witnessed a steady increase in the number of primary schools adopting new sustainability programs in the classroom and school yard.
She said the competition was a great way to encourage and reward students.
The Coles Sustainability4Schools competition was launched in May 2021 and was open to all Australian primary schools.
Schools were required to explain how they were committed to protecting the environment.
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