Return-It Blog

The 2024 Return-It School Contest Results Are In

As the anticipation and excitement of summer break for students across BC grows, Return-It is equally excited to announce the winners of the 2024 Return-It School Program Story Contest.

For 24 years, the Return-It School Program has served as a cornerstone of environmental education, motivating numerous students to embrace recycling and its significant impact on the environment. Annually, students from across British Columbia channel their creativity and commitment to environmental stewardship into presenting their recycling success stories, competing for the $5,000 cash prize. The contest aims to inspire and empower future leaders on the importance of recycling and how sustainability can be a part of whichever path they take in the future.

The 2023/2024 school year was marked by inspiring narratives that showcased the commitment and enthusiasm for recycling within schools throughout British Columbia. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to every school that submitted their recycling story and congratulate the four schools that emerged as winners this year.

Elementary Category:

  • First Place: Mountview Elementary
    • Mountview Elementary earned first place with their recycling initiatives focused on reducing litter within the school grounds and minimizing landfill waste.
  • Second Place: Khalsa School Newton
    • Khalsa School Newton secured a close second place by raising awareness about recycling among students and implementing waste-free challenges.

High School Category:

  • First Place: Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School
    • Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School won first place with their transformative recycling initiatives, including the development of their own collection program.
  • Second Place: St. John Paul II Academy
    • St. John Paul II Academy earned a well-deserved second place, with Grade 12 students leading their small school of 85 in efforts to reduce plastic waste entering the school grounds and oceans.

Read on to discover more about our inspiring winners.

1st Place, Elementary

Mountview Elementary

Mountview Elementary School in Williams Lake has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to environmental preservation. For nearly a decade, the school has maintained an active beverage container recycling program aimed at reducing the amount of beverage containers entering landfills.

In the 2023/2024 school year, this dedication continued. Grade 5/6 class started the school year by brainstorming ways to improve both their school and the environment. After extensive discussion and research, they decided to focus on reducing litter on school grounds and minimizing the amount of garbage sent to landfills. This led to the formation of the "Litter Busters" group.

The group, under the supervision of an Education Assistant, installed classroom recycling bins and worked on collecting and sorting materials found in the bins. These bins were then cleaned and returned to the classrooms. Once a large bag of returnable beverage containers was full, the principal transported it to the local depot for recycling.

Additionally, the school decided to install a permanent outdoor recycling bin for refundable drink containers to further reduce their waste. This new bin will be set up in the next school year, helping to divert more beverage containers from the landfill.

“Mountview Elementary School is beyond thrilled to be a winner of this year's contest! Our school has worked hard to develop a strong recycling and composting program and the funds from this contest will serve to enhance our program. The senior students at our school and the Litter Busters group have all enjoyed the volunteer experience and we hope that giving them this early training will encourage them to continue recycling at home and into their adult lives. Your Return-It story contest provided an excellent opportunity to show the kids that we all can make a difference to help the Earth.” - Lara Roorda, Education Assistant

2nd Place, Elementary

Khalsa School Newton

At Khalsa School Newton, there was a strong emphasis on environmental responsibility and community education about recycling. To achieve this, Return-It recycling bins were strategically placed in various classrooms. Student councils and classroom representatives took the lead in introducing the program to their peers and school clubs. Their school club, KSN Speaks, played a crucial role in spreading information about recycling through PA system announcements and storytelling sessions.

The impact of these educational initiatives became clear over time. Initially, the bins contained a mix of garbage and recyclable materials, indicating a lack of student awareness. However, through ongoing education and engagement, a significant shift occurred. Over time, the bins began to contain only recycled containers. This transformation highlighted the success of the educational efforts and the positive behavioural changes they inspired among students.

"The students at Khalsa School Newton are very grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Return-It School Program this year. We are excited to have been recognized with the second prize for our efforts. Our students, parents and staff have truly highlighted our commitment to environmental stewardship, which is in line with our school's environmental strategic plan. The funds are going to go a long way to help bring environmental awareness to our school community." - Mrs. Gursimran Kaur, Principal

1st Place, Secondary

Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School

Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School, located in the treaty territory of the Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' First Nations (KCFN) on the west coast of Vancouver Island has no road access and the only way to access their community is by boat or plane.

Since the community doesn’t have a recycling center yet, the school developed their own collection program and organized their first bottle drive where they collected beverage containers to divert them from landfill and to clean up the community. This bottle drive was met with huge success with 5,832 beverage containers collected.

After collecting beverage containers, the school partnered with Rugged Coast Research Society to help them transport beverage containers to Fair Harbour and from there to Courtney. Their bottle fundraising helped them go on a field trip and visit Comox Valley Waste Management Centre to learn more about recycling.

The school did not stop there. Currently, they are working on a proposal to have a Waste Transfer Station in Kyuquot. They would like to present it at the KCFN Annual General Meeting and are very hopeful that the Nation will consider it.

"Thank you for this award! We learned a lot from this project. It feels good to have our efforts supported and to know that the Return-It Center helps people recycle. We want to help make a difference!" - With immense gratitude, Aisha and the KESS Junior Class

2nd Place, Secondary

St. John Paul II Academy

When it was announced that the theme for Earth Day 2024 was “Planet vs Plastics”, students at Saint John Paul II overwhelmingly committed to take on the challenge and join the movement, not only reducing the use of plastics but also recycling to keep plastics from entering the school grounds and oceans. Spearheaded by the Grade 12 students, they led their small school of 85 into action.

Through their hard work, students successfully achieved the goal of returning 21,338 containers and held four bottle drives throughout the year, with families and the community giving them containers.

Not only that, but the school also organized a week of ‘learning and doing’ for the whole school, where they had day-specific initiatives like a clean-up day, compost your food waste day and many more.

The deposit refund the school collected supports various causes important to their Grade 12 students, like the Sandwich Club, making and delivering sandwiches to the homeless in White Rock, their Garden Club, increasing connections to the environment around them, Student Council for student life, and Grad activities to celebrate another successful year.

“Saint John Paul II Academy's involvement in the Return-It School Program is about making a real difference in our environment, and we are proud to be a part of this movement. Thank you!” - Lorraine Paruzzolo, School Principal

Thank you to every school that participated this year and shared with us their initiative-full school year!

We hope all students across BC enjoy a safe and well-deserved summer break and that the recycling habits learned throughout the year continue during their time off. We look forward to next year’s Return-It School Program and the new and exciting stories from the next school year.

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