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Feauture: Do schools need a kick up the Rs?

Reduce, re-use and recycle. It's a common mantra at junior and secondary schools around the country. But there is no doubt that reaching the very young is easier than the young-adults of secondary education. In the south west of England organisations such as The Recycling Consortium, Envolve and Bath and North East Somerset local authority have been developing a multi-faceted approach that aims to reduce waste produced by schools, educate the children and create mini-lobbyists within the region's households.

Children can act as very good ambassadors for the message within their own homes according to Sarah Raban, waste and campaigns officer at Bath and North East Somerset council. "We link the children's activities with their parents as much as possible," she says. "Schools are a major part of our waste minimisation strategy as they work on a number of different levels. We provide very practical support to get the message across and to help the schools."

One of the most obvious and useful methods for primary schools is to introduce recycling initiatives that target the waste produced at the school. "Younger children have huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm but very short attention spans," says Raban. "By creating projects within the school we ensure that the recycling is all around them."

Though her team do provide web and literature support, she stresses that the majority of the support is much more hands-on. Recently she ran an assembly looking at the green box kerbside recycling scheme as part of the Re-think Rubbish campaign. The project looked at the green box scheme and emphasised the importance of recycling. But it also included a postcard that each of the children took back to their homes and which asked whether the household did recycle and also gave them an option to request a green box if they did not have one.

Similarly, the authority has run zero waste lunch projects, where a recycling officer will visit a primary school at lunchtime and will go through the lunch boxes of those not having school meals. The officer then explains to the children what from their lunches - typically the packaging - cannot be recycled and incentivises the children to create a zero waste lunch a week later by offering stickers. "We have been able to achieve 80% zero waste for those bringing in packed lunches and the kids produced just one third of the total waste following the scheme," says Raban.

At one of the schools this has been implemented on an on-going basis by a zero waste Friday, however Raban concedes that keeping the pupil's motivation up is tough and that a gradual performance decline has been seen. "We're now considering either a sticker card scheme or a visual method like a thermometer filling up towards a target," she says. "You have to accept that the children have very short memories and create incentives and feedback."

The council has also worked with locally-based The Recycling Consortium (TRC), which created its first dedicated education project in February 1998, building on the education work already being carried out by Avon's recycling officers. Since then the project has developed and grown and the organisation has four education officers, all fully qualified and experienced teachers, working in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. TRC organises a varied programme of curriculum-linked assemblies, workshops, presentations, teachers' resources and in-service training sessions, suitable for primary and secondary schools.

The main aim is to promote the 3Rs message: to r

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