“We don’t want more garbage because the earth will get sick.” An avid group of recyclers at Pleasant Corners Public School can tell you exactly which items can be recycled. And they also have advice for parents making their kids lunches: stop using single-use plastics. But they also have suggestions for the corporations making products like juice boxes and snack kits: stop using single-use plastic, because it’s killing our planet.

The Review visited the school last week to see the Grade Two recycling team in action and took a few minutes to hear what the volunteer crew had to say. There was no shortage of commentary on the environment, the oceans, plants and animals and the need to change what we’re doing. In short: these kids get it but more: they are acting on their beliefs every day with their peers.

When it comes to packaging, we have a problem. That’s what one Grade Two student said.

“This is a big problem; we need to reduce the amount of plastics that go into our landfills.” said Lisa Jennings, a Grade Two teacher at PCPS and the mastermind behind this project. The way it works is that after lunch, a select group of kids have a station with different bins to collect and sort different items like cardboard, plastic, juice boxes, yogurt cups and paper.

On their way out of the cafeteria, the students go to the sorting station with recyclables and get help from the recycling team — their peers — to determine into which bin their items should be placed. At the end of the lunch-hour, everything is taken back to Jennings’ classroom to be washed by the students.

“The worst thing is juice boxes; we have to cut them open to clean them; it’s very time-consuming” according to Jennings, who wants parents to think about reusable containers and avoid buying products contained in single-use plastics. She also said the kids “went wild” over this idea and have been lining up to participate in the collection and cleaning of the recyclables.

They usually collect about one-and-a-half clear garbage bags full of recyclables every day. Considering that there are about 200 school days per year, that adds up to 300 bags of recyclables — and that is only from the lunches of students in Grades 1, 2 and 3.

Jennings said a similar initiative with the older students is being considered.

The students understand that it is about much more than the plastic containers in their lunches.

“It’s not just here at school, but also at home,” said one student, named Sophie.

“People need to understand that plastic bags take up to 1000 years to decompose,”  said Mia, who wants companies to stop making products out of plastics.

“Only 9% of plastics are actually recycled. So more schools and companies need to take initiatives like this one. But it would be preferable that single-use plastics are never used in the first place,” Jennings said.