Avondale University students with a Return and Earn bin

Return and earn

Friday, November 17, 2023
Alana Macgillivray
About the Author

Alana Macgillivray

Alana Macgillivray is a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary) student, completing her final year of study at Avondale University.

Intentional students collect unconventional treasure

A new recycling initiative by students in an environmental issues class at Avondale is turning trash into cash for charity.

The initiative has a visible presence on the Lake Macquarie campus: blue bins bearing a Return and Earn logo. The New South Wales Government scheme earns 10 cents for the return of every eligible drink container.

Louise Huang is a member of the class organising the initiative in a new partnership with a local fundraising group. “We usually don’t think return and earn efforts add up,” says the science teacher in training. “But Cans for Charity demonstrates that a group of volunteers can raise a lot of money.”

Cans for Charity collects and returns bottles and cans, donating the proceeds for student scholarships at Avondale and to a variety of charities including, this past year, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Timor-Leste, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Rapogi Lwanda School for Orphans in Kenya, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and food systems social enterprise STREAT. Since beginning almost three years ago, Cans for Charity, a “minor enterprise that does good” as group leader Dr Norm Young describes it, has raised almost $14,000.

To collect containers, Cans for Charity volunteers sort, with permission, through recycling and rubbish bins of friends and neighbours. Now, for the first time, they have bins of their own.

As dedicated deposit locations, the blue bins on campus will, the students hope, increase awareness of the Return and Earn scheme. For Louise, they are a reminder of the power of intentional choices to effect change and build culture. “Eliminating waste or contributing to charity is not overwhelmingly difficult,” she says.

The initiative also provides an opportunity for the students to put their learning into practice. It is a “perfect fit” with a major assessment students are required to complete for the unit, says lecturer Dr Jason Morton. The assessment tasks students with preparing, promoting and monitoring the bins to determine their success.

Students and teacher alike anticipate positive responses to a new way of “giving with little effort.”

Photograph: Avondale University student Louise Huang (left) and her Environmental Issues classmates with a new Return and Earn bin. Credit: Maddy Voinea.