Using beeswax [lunch] wraps is just one way a group of innovative Illawarra students are reducing the amount of soft plastics at their school.
And for over a year the Illawarra Christian School (ICS) year 8 girls have been working to educate local families about the devastating effects of soft-plastic in our oceans and in landfill.
Known as the plastICS – Preventing Litter and Stormwater Trash at Illawarra Christian School, the girls are passionate about the Illawarra and preventing plastic pollution.
Group member Ava Fahey said the plastICS “work to reduce the amount of soft-plastic brought to school in lunch boxes and provide a means of recycling for the soft-plastic that does come into our schools”.
She said the group was formed originally for a competition which required them to find and solve a local problem.
“We were all really passionate about the ocean and protecting its wildlife and things like that so we decided to target plastic pollution, which is one of the main types of pollution affecting our oceans today,” Ava said.
“Obviously it is a huge problem, so we had to narrow it down a bit. We decided to target soft plastics, things like chip packets and zip-line bags and glad wrap.
We had a metre long and nearly a metre high of rubbish..and within a year it could have easily filled our school COLA.Ava Fahey
“And we know that our kids take a lot of plastic waste to school so we wanted to reduce that as well.”
A plastic audit showing how much plastic ICS uses during a normal school day “astounded and encouraged” students and teachers alike to stop using plastics.
“We had a metre long and nearly a metre high of rubbish..and within a year it could have easily filled our school COLA,” Ava said.
“This made us want to find an alternative to soft plastic packaging, which is when we discovered beeswax wraps.
“So we created beeswax wraps [coating some fabric in beeswax and then heating them for about a minute in the oven] and sold them at the school.
“They can be reused over and over again and they are biodegradable as well so if they make it to the ocean it won’t have such devastating effects.
“We have heaps of students and teachers alike bringing beeswax wraps to school, which is fantastic.”
Read more: A plastic-free Wollongong
Fellow plastICS member Skye Netting said the group also held a successful soft plastic recycling week.
She added the group were now keen to empower other students and schools to make a positive environmental contribution.
As such they will hold a regional training afternoon at ICS on Wednesday, April 11.
Speakers include Dr Karen Raubenheimer from UOW’s Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), Wollongong City Council waste management coordinator Fiona Netting and Boomerang Alliance leader Andy Gray.
The plastICS will also talk about how they hope to reduce the impact of soft plastic pollution by using sustainable alternatives and turning soft plastic waste into products with a social conscience.
The group, who won a Rise and Shine award in Wollongong in 2017, also plan on taking their message to an international stage.
Finishing third in the National Problem Solving finals last year secured the plastICS an invitation to attend the Future Problem Solving International titles in Wisconsin, US from June 6-10 this year.
“We are really excited to be heading up there and representing our country and the Illawarra,” Ava said.