Student Investigations Impact Waste at WAB 

Student Investigations Impact Waste at WAB 

Have you ever wondered what happens to waste after it's thrown in the bin? How can you know what is really being recycled and what isn't? These are the very questions that three Grade 10 students found themselves contemplating last year. 

 In search of answers, Chris, Matheo, and Mason have embarked on an investigative journey, discovering the treatment of waste after it leaves WAB. As a result, WAB reevaluated our recyclable waste processes and contracted a new provider who could demonstrate their recycling process. This year, Chris took it a step further by addressing the issue from an internal perspective, focusing on people's waste sorting habits.

At the same time, WAB's Facilities & Operations Department and our Sustainability consultant, Metanoia, were investigating our waste processes, and these combined efforts have resulted in meaningful action. A group of elementary students also presented their ideas about waste sorting and labeling trash cans to WAB's Senior Leadership Team. 

"Our plan was to tackle this ongoing problem systemically, which involves changing people's perceptions of trash cans," Chris explained. To educate individuals about trash classification, three experimental "material collection points" were established at WAB, replacing traditional recycling bins. The objective is to reduce pollution and promote material recycling. 

At these material collection points, detailed information is provided to aid in proper classification. For instance, many people are aware that clean paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, and PET1-labeled plastic bottles are generally recyclable. However, items like tetra packs, soft plastics, and glass do not fall within this category. 

Similar misconceptions apply to other waste categories as well. In the case of the Food Waste bin, all food can be discarded, provided it is free of packaging and serviettes. Not following this guideline leads to contamination, which hinders the processing of food waste and creates messy extra work for our staff. The same principle applies to general waste, which must be completely separated from electronic waste to ensure appropriate processing. 

One of the key findings from this investigation is that we can confirm that only 3 groups of items can be properly recycled: clear PET-1 labeled bottles, aluminum cans, and paper and cardboard. All items must be empty and not contaminated with food, staples, or sticky tape. Any contamination can render the whole bag unrecyclable. 

This once again highlights that the most important thing is to REDUCE our waste. Reducing the amount of items we buy that generate waste will have the largest impact. Bringing water bottles to school, rather than buying a drink and avoiding anything that is packaged in single-use plastics is a simple way to make a large difference. 

Starting today, WAB is launching a new waste information program to help our community sort waste for optimal downstream processing as well as learn how we can be more sustainable in our practices. New, more explicit signage will be in place on and around all rubbish bins and more conversations will be had with our community about how we can reduce our impact on the environment. 

 WAB has confirmed our commitment to sustainability and environmental protection through our Strategy 2022+. We have been working with Metanoia for the past 18 months on a whole school Sustainability Audit that will be presented back to our community on January 29. More information on their findings and next steps for WAB will be shared in the coming weeks. 

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