Educating the young for a sustainable future

LANDFILLS everywhere are rapidly filling up and the environment is increasingly affected in various ways as a result of this. It was stated in the Recycle 123 Handbook produced in 2015 by the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) under the Ministry of Development that approximately 400 to 500 tonnes of waste goes to the Sungai Paku landfill daily.

In fact, it has been estimated that by the year 2025, that very landfill will be entirely filled. In the nation, the waste generation is around 1.4 kilogrammes per person per day, comprising 36 per cent food waste, 18 per cent paper and 16 per cent plastic. We are at a point where we know that there’s a problem and have identified the causes of the problem but the question lies in whether we are doing what’s necessary to remedy the problem as much as possible.

One such solution to this problem is recycling, and the nation’s aim is to achieve a recycling rate of 15 per cent by the year 2020. Through recycling, old items that are no longer useful to us can be converted into functional products with a new purpose.

What’s being taught and done in schools? 

It’s important for everyone to practice recycling but an important place to begin instilling the habit would be at school while individuals are still young.

In the nation, a good number of schools have started taking steps towards ensuring both staff members and students play their part in going green.

“We have recycling bins placed all around the school, in the canteens and main areas where students congregate at break times.

“These include recycling bins designed by one of our Design and Technology students a few years ago which are made out of recycled wood. The latest bin units have the slogan ‘Don’t Trash Our Future’ which one of our Eco-JIS committee came up with,” said the Environmental Education Coordinator at Jerudong International School (JIS), Yvonne Follows-Smith.

“Our Eco-JIS Committee has also designed and made wire mesh bins which are very light and easy to move into place when we have special events such as Football Funday or Netball Funday. Each tutor group is encouraged to have a paper recycling bin in their classroom, where they earn ‘Green Points’ for their Houses if these bins are in place. Each of our 16 Houses then has its own larger recycling bin for the classroom paper to be sent to before being moved down to the school’s main recycling collection points,” she added.

It’s not as simple as placing the bins there and hoping that individuals in school will put the trash in an organised manner. JIS also actively finds different ways to educate individuals on the importance of the act and ways in which they can contribute. In addition to specific lessons on waste management in Geography, awareness is raised through carrying out beach clean-ups, involvement with Society for Community Outreach & Training’s Green Xchange and activities during its annual Earth Week. The school has also won a four-month recycling initiative by the Green Brunei Eco Drive earlier this year.

“The students are taught to think about waste in a holistic way to help them understand that valuable resources are used to produce items and that waste disposal is not only a waste of these resources, but that it can also have serious impacts on the environment even when waste is disposed of in a responsible manner. Therefore, reusing waste materials is more sustainable. We also give attention to reducing waste in the first place, by avoiding the excessive use of packaging,” said Follows-Smith.

Similar efforts are being made in Maktab Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah (Maktab Duli) by its Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Unit. In addition to encouraging all individuals to separate their trash into three recyclable types, the unit carries out a recycling drive project during each school term where all recyclables are collected from various areas of the campus.

“At the same time, we get them to bring in their recyclables from home too. They’ve learned to separate their trash correctly into the different types of recyclables and we often have student volunteers participating in the drive,” said Maktab Duli’s Head of HSE Unit Armacester Hj Arsad.

“The staff and students are being taught waste management, such as to reduce paper wastage and the importance of practicing the 6Rs (rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle). More awareness on eco-friendly habits is also consistently being raised so as to promote a more sustainable lifestyle for the future,” added the Head of the Green Council at Maktab Duli, Kathrina Murni.

For its part, Daikyo Environmental Recycling Sdn Bhd has provided industrial sized skip bins for certain schools but not all schools as some have abused the use of the bins.

Project Manager James Hung said, “Some other schools recycle on their own without our bins. They just collect the recyclables, segregate it and then put it into plastic bags for us to collect. I think there has been a significant increase in schools doing so in recent years.”

He added,“We do hold some talks but mostly, the schools would organise visits to our recycling yard where we show them what we do to the recyclables and how we segregate and export it. We show them the possibility of these materials being placed next to their houses as the landfill is running out of space.”

Importance of developing and instilling the habit 

Kathrina Murni said that the habit of recycling is important because the existence of our species, the plants and animals depends on this.  “Promoting sustainable development should be a top priority and should be a life goal for individuals of all ages. These are habits that we as individuals can actually fulfill because these are merely simple selfless acts,” she said.

For Follows-Smith, it’s getting students to understand the impact first.

“If students can understand the impact poor waste management is having on our planet and the implications of this for future generations, then not only will they be encouraged to act responsibly, but they are also more likely to spread the message and try and influence their relatives and friends outside school to also act responsibly,” said Follows-Smith.

“On the whole, I would say that the students have a good level of awareness and appreciate the need to recycle. It’s good to see that students are now much better about separating waste items correctly so recycling bins are being used properly. Some students are extremely motivated and are good role models for their peers. However, there is always room for improvement,” she added.

Making it a norm and a part of their lives, said Hung, will be the way to go. He added that when we were young, teachers used to bring us out to brush our teeth so that we could learn and the same could be done with recycling.

“I hope everyone, starting from young or old, can get a habit to recycle, even if it’s a small amount because when they do that, it keeps their homes and neighbours clean and eventually leading to the entire being clean,” he said.  Every single effort counts and the things that are done on an individual level can make a great difference in the long run.

Source: The Brunei Times