More than half a million learners from almost 600 schools have taken a message in the bottle into their homes and communities this year as part of Coca-Cola Beverages SA’s Schools Recycling Programme.
On September 27, these young environmental ambassadors will find out who came out tops at the annual Schools Recycling Awards ceremony in Johannesburg, where the top three waste-busting primary and high schools will be announced.
Participating schools commit to collecting at least 1000kg of waste a month – at least 30% of which must be polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – and those with a monthly haul of more than 2 tonnes stand a chance of winning cash prizes to be used for the upgrading of their facilities.
The programme is a part of CCBSA’s commitment to collecting post-consumer waste and raising awareness about the importance of waste management and recycling among learners in regions where it has a presence.
“Schools are the perfect partner in such a programme as learners take the message of environmental stewardship home with them, spreading it within their direct circle of influence and, in the longer term as they grow up and become adults, driving responsible behaviour in their families and communities,” says Tsholofelo Mqhayi, Head: Enterprise and Community Development at CCBSA.
The programme has gone from strength to strength in the six years since its inception, with a total of 597 schools participating in 2017, compared to 40 in 2011.
Last year schools collected a total of 710 tonnes of PET, cans and paper, saving 3 951.6m³ of landfill space.
Apart from standing a chance of winning a cash prize – and helping to remove PET from the waste stream – participating schools earn revenue from the recycling material collected, while learners begin to understand complex sustainability issues.
“Using knowledge, critical thinking skills and values, they are developing the capacity to participate in decision making about environmental and development issues,” says Mqhayi.
The programme has also created permanent jobs for 53 youth Recycling Representatives in CCBSA and elsewhere.
Once the competition has closed for the year, the top 10 schools undergo a rigorous adjudication process during September to determine the top three schools nationally.
Judges consider what each school has collected and also give schools an opportunity to present how they have included communities and parents in the process.
The Schools Recycling Awards are held to honour the schools that have excelled in the programme. The event is attended by learners and teachers from various regions, as well as stakeholders who have assisted in making the programme a success.