Return-It Blog

Return-It School's 2021 Contest Winners are Giving Back to their Communities

It’s been a wonderful 2020/2021 school year for the Return-It School Contest, which received many powerful recycling success stories from B.C. elementary, middle and high school students. Every spring, hundreds of schools that take part in the Return-It School program have an opportunity to share and enter their recycling stories into a contest. Return-It’s School Contest is focused on empowering the leaders of tomorrow by providing an incentive for students in B.C. to take their recycling initiatives to the next level. More than two million students have been inspired by the program over the last 20 years.

This year’s contest was very competitive with so many uniquely heartening and powerful stories from BC schools; the participating students have displayed a commitment and passion for recycling this year despite the challenges of COVID-19. 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.

We encouraged schools to share what they accomplished through recycling and bottle drive initiatives this year, even if these initiatives were modified or condensed due to ongoing COVID-19-related restrictions.

We sent all the Return-It School Contest entries to a panel of local judges, which included:

  • Michael Meneer - President and CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation
  • Sheila Molloy – Executive Director, Coast Waste Management Association
  • Andrea Gamley – General Manager, Coca-Cola Canada
  • Earl Thurston – Senior Developer, Web and Creative Services, Stargate Connections Inc.
  • Allen Langdon – President and CEO, Return-It
  • Baljit Lalli – Vice President, Corporate Communications & Stakeholder Relations, Return-It

After reading each competitive entry thoroughly, our judges selected four fantastic school stories as winners: Forest Grove Elementary in Forest Grove, Ladner Elementary in Delta, Lake City Secondary in Williams Lake, and Charles Hays Secondary in Prince Rupert.

Check out the great initiatives these leaders of tomorrow are engaging in to make our planet greener below.

Forest Grove Elementary School’s Dedicated Recycling Program

Forest Grove Elementary, located in a small community 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 82 students provides students with a sense of belonging, participation, and community - largely because each student gets a chance to participate in the school's recycling program! Over the years, this program has grown to be a key component in teaching students about helping a cause and furthering their life skills.

In the past few years, volunteers for Forest Grove's recycling program has been able to extend it's capacity by bringing on new volunteers from the community and creating a new system for fundraising that has significantly increased the number of beverage containers they've been able to collect. This school year alone, they have collected over 200,000 beverage containers for their school!

The money raised each year goes towards new school supplies, field trips, 20-foot storage containers for storing the containers they collect, start-up funds for new teachers, and more! Most significantly, the program is the main source of funding for Forest Grove's CPAC program, which ensures no student goes hungry throughout the day by providing breakfast and lunch to students who need it. The students at Forest Grove really get to see how far the funds they've raised can go in supporting their learning and community!

Their inspiring hard work has earned them a first place cash prize of $5,000 from Return-It to contribute to their school's fund.

Ladner Elementary School’s New Playground Fundraiser

Students & parents at Ladner Elementary School have been collecting refundable bottles & cans since the Summer of 2020 to help raise funds for the Playground Replacement Project. With the help of community donations, they have returned almost 90,000 containers through drive-through drop-off events and the school's Return-It Express account!

The Ladner Elementary PAC extended the reach of the school's bottle drive by promoting drop-off events on their social media channels. They also set up bright Return-It School bins in the school hallways to make it clear to students where they can recycle their juice boxes and other drinks to contribute to the fundraiser.

Green learning and initiatives don't stop with bottle drives at Lander Elementary - this school year, some students recycled used materials to create art projects and others used old pop bottles as plant-starting pots and piggy banks!

Ladner Elementary won the second place cash prize of $2,500 from Return-It to go towards their new playground. We know these thoughtful students will continue their recycling efforts for years to come!

Lake City Secondary School’s Life Skills class

The 9 students in Lake City Secondary’s Life Skills class have been tasked with a very important job: once every week, they are responsible for collecting refundable containers from each classroom in the school.

Working their way down Lake City’s hallways, this weekly exercise is the 9 students’ way of giving back to their school community. While on their route, they get to meet and interact with many familiar and friendly faces. Classroom visits sometimes mean getting a special treat from a teacher or stumbling upon an exciting performance from Lake City drama students. While collecting containers allows the students to fundraise and contribute to their school, it also emphasizes movement and inclusion within their school community.

Through their commitment to recycling and giving back, the students have also learned to be gentle and empathetic with each other. Medical and physical issues mean the group can’t always finish their job in one day, but that hasn’t discouraged Lake City’s Life Skills class; instead, they support one another and encourage struggling classmates to stay behind and rest on difficult days.

Lake City’s Life Skills class’ recycling efforts have been a huge success – the school raised over $800 this year alone, and they have been running their program for more than 8 years! They hope to use the funds they’ve raised and the 1st place $5,000 cash prize rewarded by Return-It to go on a school outing once it is safe for the students to do so.

Charles Hays Secondary & the Prince Rupert Rainmakers Interact Club

For the past 2 years, the Prince Rupert Rainmakers Interact Club has been responsible for the recycling program at Charles Hays Secondary School. The Club is a service club at Charles Hays, and has 22 members.

The goal of the Prince Rupert Rainmakers Interact Club is to provide service locally to their school and community as well as internationally. This school year, they set out to fundraise through a bottle drive for the purchase of 6 Sea Bins – floating trash skimmers capable of collecting surface debris in marine environments.

Through newspaper and social media advertising, the Club was able to reach their greater community with their fundraiser. With many other groups not operating due to COVID-19-related restrictions, there were more containers than usual available for collection.

The Rainmakers Interact Club members learned valuable lessons through their fundraising efforts, like the power of community support and how easy it can be to reach your goals when working with a dedicated and committed team.

The Club was able to collect over 14,800 containers toward their goals this school year! Their efforts and ambitious goals have been rewarded by our judges with a second place $2,500 cash prize from Return-It.

Congratulations to all four schools for such incredible leadership initiatives. The hard work and dedication of each student who took part in the Return-It School Contest make 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! Congratulations.

Questions about this blog post? Please contact us at or 1-855-350-2345 for more information.