June 22, 2022 (Burnaby, BC) — It has been another successful year for the Return-It School Contest, which received many inspiring recycling success stories from B.C. elementary, middle and high school students. Since the program’s inception 22 years ago, hundreds of schools have taken part in the program by collecting refundable beverage containers. The contest aims to empower the leaders of tomorrow by providing an incentive for students to take their recycling initiatives to the next level.
The 2021/2022 school year was competitive, with many entries demonstrating how students from across the province are showing a commitment and passion for recycling. The Return-It School Contest reflects Return-It’s social purpose to foster a world where nothing is waste – creating a better future for people, communities and the planet through recycling, education and strategic partnerships.
Four incredible school stories were selected as winners: Forest Grove Elementary in Forest Grove, Vancouver Talmud Torah School in Vancouver, Holy Cross Regional in Surrey, and Charles Hays Secondary in Prince Rupert.
1st Place, Elementary
Forest Grove Elementary School’s Dedicated Recycling Program
Forest Grove Elementary, located in Forest Grove in the South Cariboo region, has been holding successful bottle drive fundraisers with the Return-It School Program for almost 20 years. This small school of 95 students provides kids with a sense of belonging, participation and community. Return-It’s School Contest has become a key component in educating students about sustainability practices and the importance of caring for the environment. The students’ inspiring hard work has earned them first place for the second time in a row and a cash prize of $5,000 from Return-It to contribute to their school’s fund.
Over the past few years, donations and the school’s capacity to collect, sort and transport recyclable containers has increased. From July 2021 to February 2022, the recycling program collected a total of 173,540 beverage containers. Recently, their program has switched to using canvas mega-bags for their three main beverage container sorting bins, which each holding 1,650-2,880 containers, thereby reducing plastic bag use. The school also invested in reusable totes and recycled cardboard for transporting glass.
“Wow, two years in a row!! Thank you tremendously for this first place recognition,” said Jess Drennan, Forest Grove’s CPAC Treasurer. “Our school, staff, students and community rally together year after year to maintain our exceptional recycling program. Our mighty school of under 95 students has returned another nearly 200,000 containers again this year. We are filled with gratitude for yet another financial gain to help our school and its students. Thank you, Return-It!”
The money raised from the program has purchased safe outdoor playground equipment, an indoor climbing wall, two 20-foot storage cans (to hold recyclable beverage containers), a fitness trail, laptops and projectors, and more. This year the funds have provided the school with their daily breakfast program, monthly hot lunches, student planners for all students, 20 classroom tablets, and a new swing set for the playground.
2nd Place, Elementary
Vancouver Talmud Torah
Making the world greener and kinder is the main objective of Vancouver Talmud Torah’s Chesed Club. The Grade 6 Chesed Club (Chesed is Hebrew for “acts of loving kindness”) started a returnable beverage container fundraiser to support a charity in Uganda.
“Return-It’s model of supporting schools to collect returnable beverage containers on site is brilliant! Our families save time and gas and our school earns money for charitable initiatives,” said Shoshana Burton, Chesed Coordinator. “Owing to this program, Vancouver Talmud Torah is just $200 shy of our $1,000 goal to purchase a dairy cow to meet the nutritional needs of the beneficiaries of Nest of Joy skills center in Kampala, Uganda. Return-It is an easy fundraiser to run and the enthusiasm and participation from our community is unparalleled!”
In addition to the container drive, students led awareness and action programs around reducing, recycling and reusing. The group set up a dedicated marker collection box in each classroom (in collaboration with Crayola), a “one stop” drop site for small electronic devices and used batteries in the school parkade, and a children’s books collection drive to raise money for children’s relief efforts in Ukraine. These are just a few of the inspiring programs that the Chesed Club students are dedicated to implementing.
1st Place: Secondary
Holy Cross Regional High School, Surrey
Holy Cross Regional High School’s Marketing and Promotion 11 class had the objective of revamping the school’s recycling program, HCGoesGreen. The program was inactive for over a year, which resulted in a reduced level of attention to the environment. The class kicked-off the year by rebranding the program to HCGoesGreener and started increasing awareness through Instagram engagement campaigns. During their school’s weekly news announcements, the group produced a news segment called “Simply Green.”
The class installed bulletin boards around the school that educate students on where to put recycling and trash, while also sharing how much money had been raised, information about marine life, “Simply Green” episode recaps, data on green initiatives around the world and events hosted by the students. The group also promoted an “Animal of the Month” by the World Wildlife Foundation with a QR code that allowed students to adopt wild animals via the foundation. With the money raised from recycling, the group was able to adopt a family of giant pandas.
“Our Marketing 11 students fully embraced the idea of promoting our recycling program at Holy Cross High School,” said Shauna Stanyer, a teacher, Business Department Head and one of the Campus Ministers. “Using creativity and critical thinking, they developed an interesting and fun platform to educate our school community about the importance of living an eco-friendly lifestyle. The concept of promoting a healthy, sustainable environment goes naturally with understanding Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors in business. Thank you to Return-It for supporting schools with the School Contest.”
Through social media and community awareness building, the class raised $1,062 from returning 10,624 containers, which is just 10% shy of their total goal. The money raised was redistributed to various school initiatives, such as providing scholarship funds to Grade 12 students and buying eco-friendly merchandise.
2nd Place: Secondary
Charles Hays Secondary & the Prince Rupert Rainmakers Interact Club
For the past two years, the Prince Rupert Rainmakers Interact Club has been responsible for the recycling program at Charles Hays Secondary School. The success of the Club has resulted in expanding their involvement to other school groups and increasing awareness about recycling in the community.
Each year, the Club selects one community project and one international project to support. This year, the selected community program is the Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehabilitation Shelter. With the shelter lacking the capacity to process the returnable containers, the Club stepped in and processed all the containers left at the shelter and raised over $3,000. The school also hosted their own bottle drive which raised over $400, and the Club sponsored a Name the Owl contest on social media to raise awareness.
“The Prince Rupert Rainmakers Interact Club has once again demonstrated that the recycling of returnable containers not only helps the environment; it also helps the school, community and others in need of assistance,” said Troy O’Toole, Counsellor.
In total, 102,500 beverage containers were collected and more than $8,700 was raised. Over $4,000 was given to the Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehabilitation Shelter, $3,500 to Ukraine Disaster Relief and $500 to the Volunteer Bursary at Charles Hays Secondary School.
“Congratulations to all four schools for such incredible leadership initiatives,” said John Nixon, Interim CEO of Return-It. “The hard work and dedication of each student who took part in the Return-It School Contest makes it clear that we can all make a difference for the environment. We couldn’t be more excited to see how each school’s innovative environmental programming develops in the coming years.”