Return-It Blog

Return-It Schools exceed recycling goals despite challenges

It’s been a great 2019/2020 school year for the Return-It School Contest, which received recycling success stories from B.C. elementary, middle and high school students. Every spring, hundreds of schools who 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 19 years. This last year alone, 337 schools took part.

We’re impressed with the ways students and teachers were able to stick to their recycling initiatives despite challenges faced as a result of COVID-19. We encouraged schools to share what they were able to accomplish before schools were closed as well as any recycling activities students were involved in as part of their “virtual learning” at home.

“Despite the challenges in our current environment, it’s great to see the commitment, creativity and focus BC students have taken to ensure recycling is a priority and solution to diverting beverage containers and other materials from our landfills, oceans and waterways,” said Allen Langdon, President and CEO of Return-It. “The impact these schools and students have had in their communities is remarkable – and demonstrates what we can accomplish when we all work together towards a common goal.”

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

  • Cara Heck – Owner, Columbia Bottle Depot
  • Michael Meneer - President and CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation
  • Brianna Ames – Director, Government & Stakeholder Relations, Coca Cola
  • Alison Wood – Executive Director, Ocean Ambassadors Canada
  • Jeremy Douglas – Vice President, Development, Ocean Wise
  • Allen Langdon – President and CEO, Return-It

After some tough decision-making, our judges selected four very impressive school stories: Palsson Elementary in Lake Cowichan, Sir William Van Horne Elementary in Vancouver, Holy Cross Regional High School in Surrey, and Anahim Lake Jr. Secondary in Anahim Lake. Check out the great initiatives these leaders of tomorrow are engaging in to make our planet greener below.

Palsson Elementary School’s Rockin’ Bottle Drive Program

Students at Palsson Elementary decided to try out their first bottle drive fundraiser back in January 2018. After their first bottle drive was a huge success, Palsson set an ambitious and encouraging goal to use their bottle drive money to fund a 5-month drum lesson program for groups of third grade students.

By advertising the school’s bottle drive across Lake Cowichan, the students are able to collect beverage containers from residents of their entire community, who have banded together to support the school’s initiative. Students were also responsible for collecting the recycling from classroom recycling stations each day to return to the depot. The recycling program didn’t just encourage recycling awareness in Lake Cowichan – it promoted leadership and responsibility among Palsson students, as well as building stronger relationships between families and the local community.

The school’s recycling efforts resulted in their drumming program being fully funded by deposit refunds! The program ended with a bang when students showed off their skills at a concert for the whole school community – everyone who supported the students’ initiative was invited to cheer them on!

This year, Palsson Elementary collected over 9,000 beverage containers, which they returned to Junction Bottle Depot in Ladysmith, BC. That dedication has been rewarded by a first place, $5,000 cash prize from the Return-It School Contest to support ongoing efforts.

Watch a clip from Palsson’s drum concert here.

Sir William Van Horne Elementary School’s New Healthy Habits

In 2019, the Sir William Van Horne Parent Advisory Council (PAC) decided it was time to grow “healthy habits” for students and the community by starting a recycling program. Noticing that refundable beverage containers do not end up in the proper recycling bin, the PAC signed up Van Horne as a Return-It School and launched a collection program that educated students, parents, and teachers about recycling while collecting refundable containers for refund each school day.

Recycling doesn’t stop after school though – the Van Horne PAC shared information on its website to help parents contribute their beverage containers from home to the school. They even created a helpful video showing parents how they can use Return-It Express to make sure their deposit refunds go directly to Van Horne’s recycling program. Their efforts came in handy when schools were closed in March due to COVID-19, and didn’t stop the parents – Van Horne families continue to return their containers in support of the school!

This school year, Sir William Van Horne Elementary diverted 2,714 beverage containers from the landfill, which they returned to South Van Bottle Depot for recycling.

Return-It has rewarded Sir William Van Horne Elementary’s efforts with a $2,500 donation, which they plan to use to expand their recycling program next year by creating Return-It Express starter kits as well as holding contests for students who participate.

Holy Cross Regional High School Marketing & Promotions class’ successful green campaign

The Marketing & Promotions 11 class at Holy Cross Regional High School decided to use test their marketing skills by encouraging their fellow students to recycle and “go green” through their months-long #hcgoesgreen campaign.

The hub of the students’ campaign was their @hcgoesgreen Instagram account, where they continue to share inspiring environmental posts and images. During the school year, the students used the account to promote contests for prizes and pizza lunches that encouraged students to engage by posting about their contribution to the school’s recycling initiatives online.

In addition to this, the students re-vamped Holy Cross’ recycling bin program, creating a brighter & more visible bin system that was easy for students to use. The new bins were placed in accessible places around the school, and students presented the new system in a school-wide assembly, using videos and games to engage the entire student body in their initiative.

The #hcgoesgreen campaign was a huge success – the school raised over $1,200 through recycling their beverage containers in just six months! This money was used to fund a school trip, purchase the prizes for the #hcgoesgreen contests, and support entrepreneurial ventures that promote eco-friendly actions.

Check out the video the students made about their campaign here.

Anahim Lake Jr. Secondary’s community recycling initiative

Students at Anahim Lake Jr. Secondary School, located in the remote Cariboo region village of Anahim Lake, know how important a fundraiser can be. Attending a remote school of just 48 students means the cost of field trips can be sky high, so they’ve been banding together to raise funds for annual school trips with bottle drives since 2014!

Anahim Lake bottle drives do more than just fund field trips, though – through their efforts, the students have visibly cleaned up their community by getting all of its residents on board with keeping recyclables off the streets.

This past school year, Anahim Lake Jr. Secondary has collected over 70,000 beverage containers! Their refunds have supported them on school activities and trips, including their annual trip to Bella Coola to release salmon the students raise from eggs each year into the river.

Anahim Lake students plan to use their contest winnings to support further educational field trips.

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 makes 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.