More than 1 000 tonnes of waste has dodged the dump this year thanks to the Schools Recycling Programme of Coca-Cola Beverages SA – a landfill-saving 300 tonnes more than was collected by participating schools in 2016.
Along the way, learners created everything from skipping ropes, abacus counters, backpacks and stationery holders to musical instruments – all from junk.
Guests were treated to a musical performance on a violin made of tin, while a living plant wall made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) adorned the venue.
Just under 600 schools took part, involving half a million learners in an initiative that earns revenue for the schools while instilling the values of environmental stewardship in the youngsters who, in turn, spread the message at home and in their communities.
“Our ideal is to nurture a generation of environmental champions to create a permanent shift in the way we deal with waste as a society,” said CCBSA MD Velaphi Ratshefola.
The top three primary and high schools in the country were unveiled at a festive awards ceremony on Wednesday at The Sheds in Alexander Street, Johannesburg, where guests were treated to performances by SA’s Got Talent finalists Paint Addiction, among others.
In the primary school competition, the first prize of R50 000 went to Ekuthuleni Primary School, Kwa-Mashu in Durban, the 2ndprize of R30 000 to Siphosethu Primary School, also from Kwa-Mashu, Durban and third prize of R20 000 to Motjibosane Primary School from Hammanskraal.
In the high school competition, the first prize of R50 000 went to Motherwell High School in Port Elizabeth, the 2nd prize of R30 000 to V.M. Kwinana Secondary School, Port Elizabeth and third prize of R20 000 to Tlhatlogang Secondary School in Mofolo, Soweto.
All the prize money will be used to upgrade the schools’ infrastructure, meaning the schools recycling class of 2017 have left a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy.
Director for General Waste Minimisation in the Department of Environmental Affairs, Mr Dumisani Buthelezi, said: “We need big corporates to take responsibility for the collection of their post-consumer waste and that’s exactly what Coca-Cola Beverages SA is doing with its Schools Recycling Programme.
“At the same time, these learners are developing their critical thinking skills in a practical exercise that challenges them to combine development objectives with environmental stewardship. It’s wonderful to see such commitment from these youngsters.”
The winning schools were selected from those that collected more than 2 tonnes of waste a month for the duration of the competition, and were judged not only on the volume of waste collected, but also their involvement of parents and communities in the process.
The programme exceeded its target of 820 tonnes of waste collected by 40%, with the total haul for the year of 1 146 tonnes breaking all previous records.
Close to R15 million has been invested in the Schools Recycling Programme since its inception six years ago, more than 60 young people have been employed as Recycling Representatives and 134 collectors have been trained and supported.
This year’s awards and prizes, which included the 8 Tonne Challenge, were valued at over R1 million in total.
For the first time, Waste Collector Recognition Awards were formalised in 2017 to call attention to the loyalty and service of partner collectors and businesses.
As part of CCBSA’s Enterprise Development Programme, collectors were given professional help to develop their businesses and become more sustainable in the long run.