Fantastic plastic initiative

WORKING TOGETHER: After hours cleaning up and revamping an old groundsmen shed, Tenison Woods College sustainability coordinator Tom Linnell and Year 12 sustainability leader Lachie Price have created the home base for the Recology Project. The site now successfully recycles plastic waste into various items including large sheets. Picture: MOLLY TAYLOR

By Molly Taylor

KILOS of plastic waste is being recycled by an innovative Tenison Woods College program as the site adopts a range of new measures to help meet an ambitious goal for a greener future.

A range of new futuristic sustainability measures have been implemented by the education facility in an effort to become a zero waste school by 2025.

Among the new strategies include an onsite plastic recycling depot, which has already processed, shredded and melted approximately 500kg of material so far.

After strenuous testing, students have started creating large and small gardening pots, Christmas decorations, chopping boards and most recently sheets of colourful plastic thanks to a sheet press machine donated by DMK Engineering.

When the zero waste goal was set, college sustainability coordinator Tom Linnell said the school did not know what it would look like or how it would get there, but Project Recology was considered the first step in the right direction.

“We thought about how we could get to that point as a school and we knew it would have to come through our young people and their learning,” Mr Linnell said.

“We embarked on our journey and discovered the Precious Plastic mission … It has taken a lot of help and guidance from the community.

“Almost every aspect of what we are doing involves community donation or volunteer work.”

After securing $20,000 through the Federal Government’s Communities Environments Program, Mr Linnell said himself and Year 12 suitability leader Lachie Price transformed a site groundskeeper shed into Project Recology’s home base.

“We now have the machines, young people’s enthusiasm and the streams of plastic, the ball is in the students’ court as to what we do next,” Mr Linnell said.

“The last few months, we have been prototyping a few things to help young people ponder what could be done.

“What we want, is for the thought of waste going in the bin and it no longer being a problem, to be changed. We want people to think about where it goes next and if it could be processed into something of value.”

Mr Linnell said the creation of large sheets of plastic was a game changer for the school, which could be virtually made into anything with some creativity.

“This really becomes a Lego kit which you can build whatever you want out of,” he said.

“The goal is to show them (students) what we can do and they decide.”

The project has been tasked to develop a feature wall to be hung vertically across from the school’s boardroom.

Two new subjects Fantastic Plastic and Precious Plastic will be introduced into the Year 8 and 9 school curriculum next year, which will involve aspects of establishing a business and marketing products students make from plastic.

Mr Linnell said it was all about a circular economy and understanding humans were contributing to the growing issue of plastic waste.

“It is unless you start to think about how to become a solution maker, things won’t change,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it will be up to the young people as to whether they want to drive and make change.

“The global plastic problem, it will be make or break in the next 10 years.”

From a student perspective, Mr Price said he believed the college was fronteering the sector, but other schools may be looking to adopt similar ideas.

“In a way, it is eye-opening to see all the alternative ways we can recycle plastics and what can be done,” Mr Price said.

“I had no idea we could be making the stuff we are now.”

Mr Linnell said the end goal was to involve as many organisations, schools and community members as possible to grow and make a larger change.

“The stuff we are doing is not hard, we don’t own this stuff, the goal would be for it to be copied elsewhere because that’s the bigger solution,” he said.

“We would love to see local businesses and organisations connect with the school and see if they can be involved.”