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
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
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
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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