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The Toronto Star

June 5, 2010


Inaugural contest winners are taking garbage
very seriously

Grade 5 students from Mazo de la Roche Public School won second prize for their stomp program which gets students dancing to flatten 70 boxes that accumulate on school pizza days.

Trash Talk:
These kids really know how to talk trash.

Photo and article by: Ellen Moorhouse
(Special to the Star)


The decision was difficult and the jury was at first divided.

But the winners of Trash Talk’s inaugural garbage contest have been chosen.

In first place are four Grade 12 World Issues students from Thornlea Secondary School in Thornhill. Amber Li, Christine Lee, Grace Lim and Ying Li put together a thoughtful proposal for introducing the green bin to their school.

As contest judge Catherine Mahler, co-ordinator with the Ontario EcoSchools, observes: “I love that they did the survey to see if the students and staff would use it."

They also followed the contest guidelines well, and as Mahler notes, demonstrated good research skills.

The students described the benefits of diverting organics from landfill, identified how many bins to purchase and where to station them, determined that the school’s waste removal company could pick up the organics and specified how they could evaluate the program success.

"The students show a polish at that level," says contest judge, Peter Cantley, who heads Loblaw’s floral and garden centre business, of the high school students. “There’s great creativity, and they’re taking action. It’s very encouraging to see."

In second spot are Grade 5 students from Mazo de la Roche French immersion school in Newmarket. This entry, which recently won a York Region District School Board Eco-Team award, came with its own video, demonstrating superior script writing skills accompanying a keen environmental conscience.

These environment club members noticed a pizza box problem one day when they were washing out green bins, as part of the organics program they have implemented. Whenever the school had pizza days (twice a month), there were so many boxes (70 in all) they overflowed the recycling bin, necessitating a second bin pickup, more truck traffic and more pollution.

“They thought there’s got to be a better way, so they decided, ‘Well let’s just stomp them down, and let’s stomp to music,’" Karen Craig-Chizmeshya, parent volunteer coordinator for the environment club told Trash Talk.

They have different music each time, and sometimes invite the primary students to come out and stomp. After all of that exercise, the pizza boxes easily fit in one bin.

“They’re making it fun," says Mahler. “This is important at the elementary level."

There’s a serious side, too. Explains Mahler: “Mazo’s entry demonstrated that they understood the impact of all the pizza boxes: extra trips by the recycling trucks, which contributes to air pollution, as well as the observation that the overflowing bin didn’t close properly so recyclables were blowing around the neighbourhood."

Plus other students could apply the Mazo routine, given that pizza days are an institution in many schools, Mahler says.

In third place, are the children from Jackie Ahmad’s senior kindergarten class at Springfield Preparatory, a private school in Mississauga. They had been thinking about what they could do for the earth, Ahmad said, and came up with the idea of collecting little bits of paper from around the school for composting.

Senior kindergarten students in Jackie Ahmad's class at Springfield Preparatory & Nursery School in Mississauga won third prize in Trash Talk's contest. Her class decided to collect bits of paper and compost them.

Why not the recycling bin? A representative from Peel Region’s waste management department had come to the school and explained how loose shredded paper should be composted because of problems sorting it. (In Toronto, shredded paper must be put in a clear plastic bag for recycling.)

Students created illustrated explanations of their idea for composting the bits of paper, and Ahmad, who had noticed the Trash Talk contest, sent them in. The children have since implemented their idea, putting little bins around, creating signs, explaining to each class what goes in the bin and why, and then collecting the paper bits from all the rooms, including the school principal Janet Murphy’s office.

“That’s the really great part that kids as young as senior kindergarten are thinking really seriously about garbage," says Cantley, who helped create an impressive plastic garden pot recycling program.

Honourable mention for sure goes to Toronto District Christian High School in Woodbridge. We wish we had another prize for their school-wide garbage collection and sorting system.

Also intriguing, but not exactly fitting contest criteria, were the Trash Talk rap poems submitted by Benita Hayes’ class at Weston Memorial Junior Public School: “We ain’t gonna leave this place like a dump. If we don’t help now the world is gonna go THUMP!" (We hope the students will perform and post them on YouTube.)

Some students submitted off-the-wall recycling ideas (cigarette butts turned into eyeglass frames, for example) and impressive renderings of robotic creations for sorting trash. Though fanciful, these suggestions contain nuggets of ideas that experts are actually pursuing. (A Chilean designer, for example, blends washed cigarette butt fibre and wool to produce yarn and clothing.)

So, kids, keep on imagining. And thanks for the more than 20 worthwhile entries to Trash Talk’s garbage challenge.

What the winning schools receive

Trash Talk thanks those who have generously provided the contest prizes.

  • First: A $500 President’s Choice garden centre gift certificate; Cathy’s Crawly Composter Worm Chalet with worms and instructional DVD; free screening of Toronto documentary filmmaker Andrew Nisker’s Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home with Nisker attending; six Bento-style Original Laptop Lunch Sets for litterless lunches from Borden Communications + Design with custom DVD on healthy eating; eight organic cotton reusable produce bags from Steward Bags; a dozen stapleless staplers from The Biz Mates ($30).
  • Second: A $250 President’s Choice garden centre gift certificate; a DVD of Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home; a case of 12 custom-labeled packages of organic fair-trade coffee for fundraising from The Creemore Coffee Co.; two organic cotton Canvas Artisan Bags, showcasing artists’ designs and one large Market Bag from Steward Bags; six stapleless staplers from The Biz Mates.
  • Third Prize: A $250 President’s Choice garden centre gift certificate; a DVD of Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home; 50 reusable woven bags from Westpine Promotions; six staple-less staplers from The Biz Mates.


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