The Governor-General went fact-finding to Kiama High to learn firsthand how student Waste Warriors have massively reduced the school’s waste stream.
It’s not usually the place that you’d expect to meet the Governor-General of Australia – at the back of the school standing around the bins – but Kiama High School students, twins Mathew and Rory Lawson did just that this week.
Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne Cosgrove were at the school to meet the boys and the school’s 45 other Waste Warriors who have implemented initiatives which have seen the school’s waste output decrease by 50% while significantly increasing cost savings.
The students, along with waste coordinator and teacher, Kim Cutting, have had their waste reduction journey featured on ABC TV’s War on Waste program, attracting positive attention across Australia and right up to the office of the Governor-General.
Mathew, Rory and other students demonstrated to the Governor-General and his wife how they had changed many procedures at the school, which included reducing packaging in the school canteen, implementing trash-free Thursdays, changing waste providers and overhauling all bins on site, collecting empty bottles for recycling, doing away with paper towels, and ongoing education and promotion to other students.
Sir Peter said initially his attention had been piqued when he heard the term ‘warrior’ (light-heartedly referring to his many years in the Australian Army) and wanted to know more about what the students at Kiama High School had achieved.
He praised the school and students as a “positive example and an inspiration to the whole community”.
Mathew and Rory said it was an honour to be able to show the Governor-General around the school and talk to him about their efforts to educate others and do their bit to reduce waste at the school.
“We really need to think about what we are doing when we throw rubbish away,” said Mathew. “It’s just little day-to-day things that we can all do that can add up and make a big difference.”
Rory said the lessons learned at school were making a difference at home, too.
“Sometimes we rouse on mum because of what she’s throwing away or wrapping things in,” Roy laughed.
“Being a Waste Warrior has really been enjoyable for all the kids. We’re doing something good for the school and we’re making a difference in our community. We are spreading the message to other schools in our area and across the country. It’s pretty cool!”
Kiama High School Principal Catherine Glover said the school was on a mission to make a difference.
“Everyone at the school has become a lot more mindful of everything they do on a daily basis to decrease the amount of waste going to landfill,” she said.
“People are using keep cups, bringing their food in reusable containers, using less paper and supplies, saying no to unnecessary packaging, and being open to new ideas to reduce waste.
“What the students are learning from this initiative is really the best education you can get.”
Kim Cutting said the Waste Warriors were very committed to reducing waste at the school and all students at Kiama High School were much more aware since the program was implemented.
“The students are hugely committed and are instrumental in making positive changes,” she said.
“They are involved in the canteen in making decisions about which products they want to see brought in or phased out.
“Not only are we reducing waste going to landfill, our school grounds have a lot less litter, and we are making significant cost savings on waste disposal.”
Ms Cutting said the positive media attention from being involved in ABC’s War on Waste program had seen schools and individuals from across the country contact her for information.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t get an email or a call from someone about what we are doing at Kiama High School,” she said.
“People might think it’s too hard to do it, but it’s not, and I am more than happy to help anyone who is interested in implementing a similar program in their school.”