Students at Victor H. L. Wyatt School have spent the past few weeks collecting as many used plastic bags as they can get their hands on.
The students are participating in the Bag Up Manitoba — Plastic Bag Roundup Challenge, a program run by Take Pride Winnipeg! in conjunction with Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba. This year, there are 146 schools registered in the province-wide challenge.
The competition encourages schools to do more to reduce community waste and spread the word about reusing and recycling items.
Annette Topping, a Grade 7 and 8 teacher at Victor H.L. Wyatt, spearheaded the school’s participation in the program.
"It’s totally amazing because every single class has been working together to go out there and collect plastic bags. It has brought the entire school together with a common goal," Topping said.
Students from all grades at the school have been collecting bags to contribute to the final tally. Not only are they collecting bags, they are also spreading the word to members of the community beyond the school.
"Earlier today, we were counting bags, and a delivery guy for the school came up and asked us what we were doing. After we told him, he said he was going to bring us in some bags," said Caurel Leclerc, a Grade 8 student.
"So the good thing is that it goes from one person, to another person, all the way through the community."
Many of the students have also visited local stores such as Walmart and Sobeys to collect the plastic bags the stores have set aside specifically for recycling.
"We’ve been going around our neighbourhood, going door-to-door," said Brittiney Santos, also in Grade 8, who has been spending time after school gathering bags along with some of her classmates.
"Knowing what litter does to the environment, now when I look at the piles of plastic bags we collected, it’s almost heartwarming," said Santos. "They would have all just been in a landfill."
Organizers at Take Pride Winnipeg! hope the children’s experiences in the competition will stay with them in the long run.
"By instilling these values in them as children, when they grow up and become adult citizens of Winnipeg they will carry these values with them and become conscious recyclers," said Colleen Kurlowich, manager of programs and operations for Take Pride Winnipeg!
After the competition ends on Oct. 26, the bags will be collected by BFI Canada and delivered to Trex, a company that specializes in creating wood alternatives out of recycled plastic and wood fibres. Trex will remanufacture the bags into Frisbees and birdhouses that all participating schools will receive.
The top 15 schools in the competition will also receive a recycled bench from Trex.
If they win the bench, staff members at Victor H.L. Wyatt hope it will be placed next to a tree that was planted in memory of Bruce Dunbar, a former teacher at the school who died last year.
The school has currently collected just under 35,000 bags, with a final goal of 40,000.