The Return-It School's 2023 Contest Results are In

June 22, 2023

We are excited to wrap up another successful year for the Return-It School Program and unveil the outstanding winners of our 2023 Story Contest.

For the past 23 years, our program has been a beacon of environmental education, inspiring countless schools to champion recycling and its profound impact on our environment. Each year, schools from all corners of British Columbia pour their hearts and creativity into sharing their recycling success stories, vying for the coveted $5,000 prize. The contest aims to empower the leaders of tomorrow by providing an incentive for students to take their recycling initiatives to the next level.

The 2022/2023 school year was filled with many inspiring stories demonstrating how schools across British Columbia are showing a commitment and passion for recycling. We would like to thank every school that submitted their recycling story and congratulate the four schools that won our contest this year.

In the Elementary category, Eastview Elementary claimed the prestigious first-place title. Their recycling initiatives focused on raising awareness and educating their students on their environmental impact.

Coming in at a close second in the Elementary category is Queneesh Elementary. Their commitment to recycling and their innovative solutions reduced the school waste by 80%!

In the High School category, the spotlight shines on Burnaby Youth Hub, securing the first-place victory. Their recycling initiatives have truly transformed their school as they developed their own beverage container recycling program.

Not far behind, St. John Paul II Academy claims a well-deserved second-place finish in the High School category. Although this school consists of only 12 students, their impact speaks volumes. Despite their small size, St. John Paul II Academy has exhibited a tremendous commitment to recycling.

Keep reading to learn more about our winners.

1st Place, Elementary

Eastview Elementary

Creating a physical literacy space and bringing awareness to their students on their environmental impact were two main goals of Eastview Elementary School situated in North Vancouver.

To kick start a successful bottle drive and educate students and their families on the Return-It program, the school sent educational materials and instructions to families' homes on how to return bags of beverage containers to Return-It depot locations. In addition, they also posted on school social media pages, send newsletters and put up posters around the school to create awareness about the program.

The school also held a contest over the winter break to encourage beverage recycling while the school was closed. The school sent pre-labelled clear bags to all students’ homes to fill over the break and return in January. This was their most popular bottle drive initiative and had the most impact on the students as they could physically see all 195 bags of beverage containers that were being returned and kept out of our landfills.

Through social media and community awareness building, the school raised $1,417 from returning 14,170 containers. Their students are looking forward to continuing initiatives started this year and seeing the direct impact that their efforts have had on Eastview.

"Wow! Thank you so much for choosing our school to win first place in this contest! We are beyond excited. This year our students, parents and staff really put a spotlight on being environmental stewards to align with our school district's environmental strategic plan. Every environmental initiative our school took part in this year not only helped the environment but was also educational and fun too! These funds are going to go a long way to help our school and our students. Thank you Return-It for supporting students and education!" - April LeCerf, Eastview Elementary PAC Chair.

2nd Place, Elementary

Queneesh Elementary

It was a successful year for Ms. Fullerton's grade 5-7 Montessori class. Their recycling project “There is No Time to Waste!” reduced the waste from their school by an astonishing 80%.

Students kicked off the year by refurbishing their Eco Learning Center into a “RECYCLING DEPOT” that they could use at their school. To help students learn how to use it, the class created helpful videos and materials that were distributed across the schools to encourage recycling.

In addition to the recycling depot, the class started a composting program, hosted a clothing exchange and started collecting donated cans and bottles from friends and families to help pay for new school initiatives.

1st Place, Secondary

Burnaby Youth Hub

At the beginning of 2023, students from The Burnaby Youth Hub, a small alternative school in Burnaby, BC, developed a plan for a beverage container recycling program following group discussions on environmental issues and the importance of implementing actions to combat the effects of climate change and energy use.

Inspired by the existing Return-It characters, students came up with the idea of making a life-sized mascot as a physical representation of their recycling campaign. Through collaboration with a neighbouring alternative school, Royal Oak Secondary, they put together a campaign featuring their mascot using found objects and everyday recycled materials that could easily travel between the two schools.

The students also created a comic-style handout starring their mascot character Garbeth to distribute information about Return-It and its Express program for recycling at the Return-It locations.

Their joint efforts helped them collect a total of 3,001 refundable beverage containers, and the deposits raised would help them to fund local field trip possibilities that would focus on environmental conservation and protection.

"The students at The Burnaby Youth Hub and Royal Oak Secondary are so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Return It Schools program this year and are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded first prize for their campaign -Return It to Earn It. A huge thank you to Return It for their support of schools in raising awareness to recycle. This prize money will allow the schools to fund educational field trips to further our conversation efforts in the community. We look forward to continuing our campaign to fundraise and promote the importance of exercising good habits to benefit and preserve our environment.” - Sally Vanin, Educational Assistant

2nd Place, Secondary

St. John Paul II Academy

The St. John Paul II Academy class, also known as Legacy Class consisting of only 12 students, had a goal to leave a legacy for their junior classmates to show that strength in number is not about the size, but more about the will. Since their school had not developed a recycling program, they decided to start one to keep beverage containers out of landfills.

Students set up several recycling bins for students to deposit their cans and bottles, distributed flyers in school and held four bottle drives during the school year that resulted in 19,033 beverage containers recycled and kept out of landfills.

With the money raised, the school plans to spend it on a grad activity and use any remaining money to support their school's extracurricular activities.

"We are grateful that Return-It has recognized our Grade 12 student-led initiative. This win will give us the fuel to start something even bigger with the aim of going completely green." - Ms. Anne Boyle, Senior Advisory Teacher

"This contest has empowered our Grade 8 and 9 students in Science to participate in keeping our oceans clean from microplastics." - Mr. Vincent Tighe, Grade 8 & 9 Science teacher

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

It’s now time to enjoy your well-deserved summer and we are looking forward to hosting you next school year.