Bentleigh West Primary School has become one of the most sustainable schools in Victoria

It’s latest green innovation is accelerated onsite composting. A team of 40 student environment monitors oversee the collection of food waste, which is put into the Closed Loop Organics Unit. This reduces to 10 percent of its original weight in a day, creating a nutrient rich fertiliser that can go back onto the school vegie garden.

The school already has a wind turbine, solar panels, a wetland, worm farms, chooks and eco-friendly packaging in the canteen – it’s a real environmental champion.

“We want to be a lighthouse to Victorian schools on environmental issues,” said Leonie Brown, assistant principal and educating for sustainability co-ordinator.

The school’s latest annual waste audit recorded a 20% cut in recyclables going to landfill compared to 2009. The Organics Unit will further reduce the nearly 50% of food waste that goes to landfill.

Closed Loop managing director Robert Pascoe said Bentleigh West Primary was the first Australian school to adopt Organics Units, which also operate at the MCG and the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

“The technology and systems exist to slash the amount of waste we send to landfill but it takes education to make it work,” Mr Pascoe said.

“There’s no better place to start environmental education and action than primary school. We want kids to understand that when food waste goes to landfill it rots and produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than what comes out of a car exhaust.”

Bentleigh West Primary involves teachers, students and parents in its recycling and waste reduction activities, and has a sustainability focus in its curriculum.

Forty environmental student monitors from grades 4, 5 and 6 ensure the school community adopts the Closed Loop Program by educating and communicating with students. There is also an eco-subcommittee of the school council that is made up of parents.

Bentleigh West students share their knowledge about reducing their environmental footprint with students from nearby schools through a “kids teaching kids” leadership program, while the teachers share experiences with colleagues from the region.

Bentleigh West Primary School students have also become environmental advocates in the corporate world. They recently travelled to Sydney to speak with Qantas executives about sustainability initiatives.

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