A litter education goes a long way


March 19, 2019


Recycling and good bin behaviour is easy once you’re in the right routine. That can be difficult for adults who have years of embedded habits and too many other things to think about. Young people, on the other hand, love learning new things and get a kick out of finding out how things work. So why not get them started on good sustainability behaviour early? Imagine what they’ll be able to teach us about our impact on the world!


Make sustainability part of the lesson plan

Sustainability lessons in school are a fun and easy way to start teaching recycling early. Kids are surrounded by everyday examples of waste materials and schools can set up really clear bin education that supports and reinforces correct behaviour.

“The idea is they teach mum and dad, grandparents, brothers and sisters, anyone who’ll listen and we basically try and get them to promote recycling and, sustainability,” says Cleanaway Education Officer Lisa Mansfield.

Our education officers in NSW have been running kNOw Waste™ since 2007. The program’s train-the-trainer approach means students often end up teaching their peers and family with an average reach of 2.7 people per household. Communities usually report a positive impact on kerbside recycling contamination rates after program delivery.

In WA, the ABC reported that councils that engaged the longest with Cleanaway’s education programs have the lowest rates of contamination, making it one of the most cost-effective methods of education.

Looking for fun ways to fit litter into your lesson plan? Here are five ways to get started.


Make learning fun and accessible

Quizzes, scavenger hunts and bingo games are a few of the more engaging activities kids can participate in to learn about litter reduction and recycling.

Incursions can be an exciting way to get students involved and excited about recycling. We regularly visit schools across the country to discuss the importance of recycling correctly, and sustainability at home and in school. The highlight for the kids is seeing our trucks in action, especially the rear lift mechanics.


Get the basics right at home

Kids mimic our behaviours both good and bad, so it’s important that we set the right example for them at home.

This means putting the right waste in the kerbside recycling bin – clean, dry, and unbagged. Common contaminants like food waste, textiles and soft plastics should go to general waste or better yet, be recycled separately, upcycled or donated to charity.

Set up a clean recycling station at home that helps everyone sort their waste correctly. Download a bin poster here or check your council website for more local recycling advice.

Teaching kids to sort waste before it reaches the bin not only produces a higher quality stream of material for recycling into new products, but it’s also a fun activity the whole family can get involved in.


Start at the top

True sustainability starts at the point of purchase and waste production. Make the waste hierarchy a household mantra by focusing on avoiding waste production like not buying single-use packaging or eating all the food in the fridge without waste. Work down the hierarchy and come up with different ways you can be more sustainable.

Download our factsheet to get started.


Encourage kids to get involved with the community

Container deposit schemes in New South Wales, South Australia and most recently Queensland, are a perfect example of how incentivising kids can be an effective tool for sustainability. Under these schemes, eligible beverage containers made of plastics, glass, aluminium, steel and liquid paperboard can be returned to collection centres for a refund.

There are many examples of kids across the country embracing container deposit schemes as a fun way to do their bit for the environment and in some cases, for the benefit the community. Here are just a few:

  • Nine-year old Charlie Crouch from Moree returned over 5,000 containers in just three weeks and used the refunds earned to buy himself a golf cart. To set an example for other kids across the country, Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall named Charlie the state’s top container deposit recycler and encouraged others to follow his lead.
  • 10-year-old Taran Vallentine from Queensland’s raised more than $350 collecting containers over the school holidays and he decided to donate it to a food bank to help people who don’t have enough food.

Vinnie’s Container Deposit Centre is another example of a community organisation doing it right by encouraging kids for sustainability. They rewarded young Hamish and his mom for regularly depositing around 200 containers each month.


Meet Noah, our Eco-champion

Noah has been obsessed with everything Cleanaway since he helped his aunt, Kelly Seibold during Clean Up Australia Day last year. Noah even started ‘Cleanaway Clean Up’ in his school oval to pick up rubbish. Whenever he gets the chance, Noah waits for Cleanaway trucks at home and looks out for our compactors behind major shopping centres.

Cleanaway’s Hugo Parris, Resource Recovery Manager at our Hemmant commercial recycling sorting and baling facility, took Noah for a tour of the plant, where he was thrilled to learn all about how trucks, front end loaders, conveyor belts and sorters work.


Need more inspiration? Check out these Clean Up Australia Youth Ambassadors on a mission to act now for a sustainable future.


Contact us to learn more about our education programs for schools, businesses and communities.