Jade Is Making A Difference

During Year 8, students participate in the Enhanced Learning Program, Explore8. In this program, students look for ways they can make a difference to societal problems and how they can create change.

Jade Destremau (Year 9) completed the Explore8 program last year. For her project, Jade looked at ways the College could minimise its plastic waste and decided to look at the Café and their use of plastic packaging. Her story is below.

“I got the idea for my project from my mentor and Science Teacher Ms Fay. We discussed how I could make a difference within the school community and we came up with the idea to look at the Café and their plastic use. Sustainability has always been very important to me. I believe we are all responsible for the damage our actions cause to the environment, and we should try to minimise our impact.

Plastic is devastating to the environment, especially single use plastic, that we use once then throw away, like food containers the Café was using.  These containers aren’t recycled. The Café uses over 250,000 containers each year. The exact number of cutlery, lids, straws and containers used in a school year adds up to 266 000 pieces of plastic, which I found horrifying. That was what made me really focus on my project. I didn’t realise it would be that bad.

I had to do quite a bit of research! My first steps were to go to the Café and discuss with the staff the amount of plastic they use and get a rough idea of pricing, so I could compare it to some companies that produced similar products (size, dimensions etc), but made from biodegradable material.

I then spoke with Brett, the Catering Manager, with our proposal and costing comparisons. He passed our message onto his managers at Compass Group, the company that manages the Café. After some correspondence with them during Explore8 and during the holidays, I managed to get their promise that by Term 2, this year, we should have a plastic free café.Through conversations we held, I was able to convince them that plastics are bad for the environment and there are other options.

I chose to recommend products made from bagasse, or sugar cane pulp. It is a waste product produced when sugarcane is crushed in sugar production. It is fully biodegradable and biodegrades in 30-120 days.

I think that by taking the initiative and showing that students would prefer it if we were more environmentally conscious, it helped convince those in charge to make a change. Also, I did a lot of the groundwork for them; obtaining pricing comparisons, how much they would have to order so nothing would change, finding a company where everything would be delivered and showing that the price wouldn’t go up; it made it easier for them. I also surveyed 100 students to see what they thought about the idea and 88% said they would prefer it if we used biodegradable materials. The cost is much the same using biodegradable products as it is using plastic. People tend to think plastic is the cheapest and most economically viable option, but you can find products very similar in price that are much better for the environment. Plastics will always have to be used in some way, but single use plastics, like shopping bags and food packaging, should really be minimised (if not banned). By not using plastic at our school, we are contributing to a more plastic free environment.”

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