Have you ever wondered what makes up the highest proportion of waste produced in your school? Three Island School students carried out a waste audit, and made the shocking discovery that more than 50 kilograms of food is wasted everyday at their school.
Year 11 students Jaimie Lau, Katya Foong, and Gobind Thind then started a New Bin system at their school to reduce the amount of food waste going into landfills.
The green trio’s brilliant idea was recognised by environmental organisation The Nature Conservancy, who honoured them with the “Outstanding Team Award” in the 2018 Nature Works Hong Kong Environmental Innovation and Leadership Programme on October 27. They were one of the three winning school teams among 12 participating schools.
Young Post spoke to the young environmentalists on November 29 to learn more about their initiative, obstacles they faced, as well as their plans for the future.
It’s easy enough to set up a special food waste bin in school, but not so easy to get everyone to sort their waste properly.
“We started by promoting our project [the New Bin system] to three classes in our school,” Jaimie, 15, said.
The school’s environmental council committee said the team also reminded their peers to put their food waste in the correct bins at many of their morning assemblies.
However, the group noticed that not many students were jumping on board their campaign. So they figured they needed to demonstrate how easy waste sorting can be in a more exciting and fun manner, and did so by inviting their peers to compete on stage.
“We asked 10 volunteers to eat a banana and chocolate bar as fast as they could, and separate the waste accordingly,” Jaimie said.
“They were all able to do it, so we made the point that if they could do it during the assembly, they could do it at lunch as well.”
The challenge left a deep impression on the students, and many of them became more conscious when it came to recycling their food waste.
Initially, the team wanted to cut down their school’s plastic cutlery waste, but they changed their minds after finding out their plan wasn’t very achievable or realistic, and it was clear to them that food waste was a much more serious problem that needed to be solved.
Before they started their project, Gobind, 16, said all the food waste was going straight to the landfills because they didn’t have a cafeteria in their Sha Tin Wai campus that would deal with it.
So the trio decided tackle the issue themselves. “We thought we should step in and solve this,” said Katya, 15.
To measure the food waste generated by the school, the group had to get their hands dirty in the middle of the summer, which they all agreed was their biggest challenge.
“It was hot and sweaty, and we had to wear masks because it smelt really bad,” Gobind recalled.
But the group, Katya said, were motivated to get through the “disgusting” process to identify the main types of waste that were generated in school for the greater good.
The group said they were happy to see that their campaign changed their peers’ waste disposal habits. They added that their green initiative would not stop because the Programme had ended.
Their current goal is to raise enough money to buy compost bins so that the food waste in their school can be turned into natural fertiliser, which can be used by their school’s gardening team, as well as the wider community.