St. Mark’s Church School’s recycling program with TerraCycle

In partnership with TerraCycle, preschoolers at St Mark’s Church School have saved more than 8700 yoghurt pouches from landfill in an effort to reduce waste reaching the ocean.

The city’s youngest residents are getting stuck into recycling at St Mark’s Church School, helping divert thousands of plastic yoghurt pouches from landfill in the process.

For the past year, the Wellington preschool has been part of a national recycling programme operated by TerraCycle, an organisation that turns recyclables into raw materials to create garden beds, park benches and playgrounds.

Preschool dean Charmaine Ramos-Yee says the young students, who are pioneering the initiative, started recycling to prevent rubbish reaching marine life.

The children were worried about the amount of yoghurt pouch waste and the impact it has on the earth. They took an interest in whales, and didn’t want the whales to eat the plastics and get sick.

“They decided they wanted to save the whales after we showed them how a lot of rubbish, particularly plastic, ended up in the ocean.”


Once the class reached 10kg of recycled pouches, teachers gave the children two 5kg bags of flour to lift off the ground to show how much waste they had diverted.

The decision to focus on recycling yoghurt pouches came about after a period where the children spent lunchtime  gathering all types of rubbish.

After it became clear that the plastic pouches were one of the most ubiquitous lunch items, staff began researching recycling options.

So far, through TerraCycle, the preschool has diverted 8795 yoghurt pouches from landfill on behalf of the Wellington community and Ramos-Yee says it’s just the start.

“Later this term we’re going on a trip to the landfill to show them all first-hand the amount of rubbish there.”

Additionally, for each kilogram of Fonterra yoghurt pouches recycled, St Mark’s Church School earns $1 to put toward school projects.

While that’s an added bonus for the school, the children’s focus is simply doing their part to reduce lunchtime waste.

“We have certain children who encourage the others to put everything in the right bin,” Ramos-Yee says.

The young environmentalists like being involved in the entire process; from collecting the yoghurt pouches and getting them ready to be recycled, to organising shipping from the school’s office to the TerraCycle team.

The organisation operates several free recycling programmes, focusing primarily on hard-to-recycle waste; such as empty shampoo bottles, food packaging, coffee capsules and cosmetic products.

They offer the service free-of-charge, making it an ideal fit for New Zealand schools to get involved with.

“We’re really inspired by the commitment of New Zealand schools to recycling, and by their hard work in raising awareness about waste and sustainability,” says Jean Bailliard, general manager of TerraCycle Australia and New Zealand.

To date, across 21 countries, TerraCycle has diverted 3.8 billion pieces of waste from landfill and incineration, and has raised US$15.6 million (approx NZ$21.2 million) for non-profit organisations and charities worldwide.