Thornleigh West Public School

Thornleigh West Public School: Waste Champions

Led by the environment captains. this project tackled litter and waste around our school, with a particular focus on sorting waste into the correct bins. Commencing with a waste audit, our students developed a series of strategies to improve waste collection and sorting and to reduce the overall amount of waste going to landfill.

Environment captains led a school-wide waste audit

Our environment captains are a group of passionate environmental leaders chosen by their peers to represent their class at weekly environment meetings. Robyn Barwell is the Environment Teacher who meets with the environment captains each week. This is timetabled into the roster so her class is covered, as environmental education is valued and not considered to be an extra to fit into recess or lunch.

During their meetings in early 2021. the captains discussed how waste in the school had not been sorted correctly. They decided to focus on this as a project for the year.

We started with a waste audit. This was conducted in front of the whole school. so that everyone could see the volume of waste being discarded. Our students observed that lots of waste was going to landfill and decided to set a goal of reducing their overall waste. with a particular focus on reducing waste going to landfill.

To meet this goal, we employed a series of strategies including:

  • introducing bins to collect bottles. soft plastics, compost and general waste
  • creating signs to educate other students on what each bin can and cannot accept
  • rostering waste monitors at lunchtimes to help students learn how to sort waste
  • implementing a school wide 'Return and Earn' program to recycle drink containers and collect container deposit refunds
  • the environment captains presented at assemblies to provide progress updates and educate our students on the impact of waste such as sharing a 'war on waste' video clip
  • the environment captains also wrote newsletter updates to promote initiatives to our school community and to provide top tips to reduce waste.

Sustainability priorities addressed by this project:

  • Unlock human potential.
  • Foster connections.
  • Act on climate change.
  • Consume responsibly.
Early education of students is vital and necessary, as we want to instil a sense of responsibility, respect and change to become a normal part of their life and daily routine and this initiative has contributed to it.
Emily Lundstrom, Environment Teacher and Leader

Project impacts

The impacts of this project on our students, teachers, school staff. community and environment:


  • Our students have the opportunity to become a class representative and achieve leadership experience in the role of environment captain.
  • All of our students are educated about initiatives when the environment captains return to class and when they present at assembly.
  • We organise incursions such as EnviroMentors to help with sustainability and waste education for all students.
  • Students have opportunities to be involved even if they are not Environment Captains, including being a waste monitor at lunch breaks.
  • All students have the opportunity to be involved because waste reduction and disposal is a school-wide focus.

Teachers and school staff

  • Our teachers are actively involved in the process by electing Environment Captains. displaying the student-made posters in the classrooms, attending the incursions and monitoring in the playground.
  • We have a recycling bin in every classroom to promote recycling.
  • Regular excursions to the local Environmental Education Centre provide education for staff and promote positive ways to reduce waste.


  • Our students have a greater awareness and understanding of the impact of rubbish and discussions around this are seen as normal and embedded.


  • Green Thumbs is a sub-committee of our P&C. Parents actively apply for sustainability grants and organise weekend gatherings such as cleaning. planting. harvesting. weeding or organising.
  • We have a volunteer parent group that runs a lunch-time gardening club. where any student can participate.
  • Our parents and the community are made aware of initiatives by reading them and tracking progress in the school newsletter.
The rubbish audit where all bins were emptied in the quad was most powerful for students who don't really think about rubbish much. I think it gave everybody a big shock at how much recycling ended up in general waste.
Year 5 classroom teacher

Next steps

  • We will partner with Hornsby Council to trial a soft plastics recycling program.
  • We will complete a rubbish audit every term throughout the year to track their progress.
  • We will try to include waste reducing tips in the newsletter and continue educating students through the EnviroMentors program and Gibberagong excursions.
  • We will hold more whole school clean-ups throughout the year.
We have helped to reduce waste and we have actually seen more people put their rubbish in the correct bins after our assembly chat. Our school is cleaner and we are glad there is less waste in landfill.
Year 5 Environment Captains

Find out more about the Waste Champions at Thornleigh West Public School.


  • DoE
  • Facilities, assets and equipment
  • School operations
  • Teaching and learning


  • Behaviour
  • Culture and values
  • Curriculum and learning activities
  • School activities

Business Unit:

  • School Infrastructure NSW
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