Students on Kangaroo Island take the lead on recycling, environment

Students at Kangaroo Island Community Education are taking the lead when it comes to recycling, the environment and making the Island plastic bag free.

Year 8/9 students in Ms Emma Bell’s Humanities and Social Sciences class are typical of the forward thinking and passion for the environment displayed at the three KICE campuses.

It is this attitude that helped lead the school to being nominated as one of the 10 best regional schools in the 2018 Australian Education Awards.

In Civics and Citizenship studies in Term 1, Ms Bell’s students learned about different environmental campaigns and changes to laws, such as plastic bag bans.

She said the students looked at Queensland as a case study, where a statewide lightweight plastic bag ban will be implemented from July 1.

This ban includes so called “biodegradable” lightweight plastic bags, as this type of plastic breaks down quickly into small pieces, actually making it easier for wildlife to ingest.

Adelaide-based company BioBag that manufactures an fully compostable bag has sent out some samples to KICE and others on KI.

Student Wade Berden has created an experiment where he has buried a compostable coffee cup and compostable bags in soil and he and his fellow students will monitor how long they will take to break down.

“We are learning that biodegradable and compostable are two very different terms,” Ms Bell said. “It can be confusing with different types of bags and products.”

The students have also been collecting soft plastics at school for specialised recycling into items such as plastic benches, and each class has a soft plastics bin for plastic bags, cling wrap, food wrappers and Ziploc bags.

Students Nina Colman and Ella Warner are promoting the “nude food” concept, where students bring lunch items that do no have any plastic wrapping.

BAG EXPERIMENT: KICE student Wade Berden with his experiment to track how different compostable items, including caps and bags, break down.

BAG EXPERIMENT: KICE student Wade Berden with his experiment to track how different compostable items, including caps and bags, break down.

The students have had plastic free picnics where all food items brought along must not be wrapped in plastic.

Last year, the campus even won a $1000 grant to buy worm farms and another Replas bench made of out recycled soft plastic.

Nina was also interviewed on BBC radio about the benefits of the 10-cent container deposit scheme that Britain is now looking at implementing.

“I think we should ban plastic bags as they don’t go away and just choke up our environment with pollution,” Nina said. “Kangaroo Island is so nice and once we lose our environment, we can’t get it back.”

Ryan Turner meanwhile has his own pet project and that is getting special Seal the Loop “tangler bins” on KI jetties where fisherman can place their tangled fishing line.

“I could go and collect and recycle the fishing gear, and it will also help save the marine environment,” Ryan said.

Ryan and Nina have even gone to their local council, Natural Resources Kangaroo Island, politicians and KI Commissioner to get support for Seal the Loop bins on the Island.

Other actions by the students include sourcing the compostable coffee cups for the school cafe and using them afterwards as pots to plant seeds and seedlings in.

The students have been inspired by other young people around Australia including 10-year-old Molly Steer who fought to ban plastic straws in Queensland and save the Great Barrier Reef.

They would like to see a similar plastic straw ban on Kangaroo Island and the whole of South Australia.

The students also continue to collecting and inputting data on exactly what kind of marine debris and pollution is washing up at Seal Bay.

Ms Bell said she was inspired to return to teaching after interacting with some of her now students when she was working at the Seal Bay Conservation Park when she first moved to the Island.

“I met a lot of the kids while talking to them about marine pollution and the impact it is having on endangered Australian sea lions,” she said.

“They were so passionate about protecting the environment and Kangaroo Island that I realised I wanted to come back to teaching. As young people, they have come up with so many good ideas.”