Coles reward waste warriors in the school yard

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Marmion Primary School's Eco Commandos with their new Buddy Bench made from soft plastics collected in REDcycle bins at Coles

Marmion Primary School's Eco Commandos with their new Buddy Bench made from soft plastics collected in REDcycle bins at Coles

Coles is celebrating 10 years of working with soft plastics recycling organisation REDcycle by rewarding more than 80 primary schools across Australia for their sustainability initiatives.

The schools, whose initiatives include sorting soft plastics to take to Coles’ REDcycle bins, building sustainable kitchen gardens and running after-school sustainability clubs like the ‘Eco Commandos,’ will each receive a Replas schoolyard ‘buddy bench’ made from 98% recycled plastic as part of Coles’ Sustainability4Schools competition. 

When Coles’ partnership with REDcycle was established in 2011, it was the first of its kind for a supermarket in Australia and since then, Coles has placed REDcycle bins in all its supermarkets across the country for customers to drop off their soft plastic packaging.

Through its 10-year partnership with REDcycle, Coles has now facilitated the collection of more than 1.6 billion pieces of customers’ soft plastic to be recycled into furniture, children’s playground equipment, roads and even used in Coles car parks.

REDcycle founder Elizabeth Kasell said the Coles partnership has come a long way in ten years.

“We started REDcycle by hiring a trailer to collect plastic bags at schools in Melbourne and deliver them to local manufacturer Replas which would recycle it to into useful products,” she said.

“A decade later, it’s encouraging to see schools are initiating their own recycling programs and being rewarded by Coles for their sustainability in the school yard.”

One of the schools to receive a recycled bench is Marmion Primary School in WA, whose year 5 students collect and promote the recycling of soft plastics through REDcycle bins at Coles stores.

Principal Ian Herbert said winning a bench made from soft plastics was a fitting reward for the students’ recycling efforts.

“A focus on sustainability has been established at Marmion Primary School for many years and each year level within our school takes ownership for various recycling responsibilities,” he said.

“Our year 5 students are responsible for soft plastics recycling and since 2017 our school has recycled 943kg of soft plastics.”

“We also have an after-school sustainability club called the Eco Commandos, where members educate their peers by presenting at assemblies, writing for the school newsletter and even making beeswax wraps to present to families at our Kindergarten Orientation evening.”

Other innovative sustainability initiatives being implemented in schools across Australia who were rewarded with a buddy bench included:

  • A five-bin recycling system around the school for paper, compost, drink bottles, soft plastics and landfill at St Brigids Catholic Primary School in Evanston, South Australia; 
  • A sensory kitchen garden, run by students and teachers at Swansea Primary School in Tasmania, where students use food scraps as compost to grow fresh fruit and vegetables;
  • 'Make No Rubbish Monday' to encourage students to bring less rubbish to school and the establishment of environment taskforces across years five and six to encourage sustainability at Yeronga State School in Queensland;
  • A weekly ‘garden club’ where students at Wollongong West Public Cchool in New South Wales meet to learn about how they can maintain and protect the environment; and
  • A flower garden dedicated to attracting bees, worm farms and a sustainable drip watering system at Murrumbeena Primary School in Victoria.

Coles General Manager Sustainability and Property Services, Kirsty Davis, said Coles was extremely proud of its partnership with REDcycle to drive sustainability for the next generation and wanted to reward schools for playing their part in protecting the environment.

“As part of Coles’ “Together to Zero” strategy, we want to work with organisations like REDcycle and local schools to reduce waste and drive generational sustainability,” she said.

“School kids across Australia have inspired us with their innovative and proactive ways to protect the environment and we want to reward and recognize their efforts by providing them with a bench made from recycled plastic.”

The donation of benches supports Coles new national sustainability awareness campaign that sets out Coles Group’s “Together to Zero” ambitions towards zero waste, zero emissions and zero hunger and encourages all Australians to work “Better Together” to help ensure Australia is a better place for future generations.

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. 

Check out the successful schools here.


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