Eco values rule at Bergvliet school

Bergvliet Primary School teacher Brenda van Niekerk shows off some of the eco-bricks in the school’s eco garden. Picture: Janice Matthews

An eco club and recycling depot at Bergvliet Primary School are encouraging pupils to rethink waste, reuse and recycle.

The school has already won several recycling competitions, but it’s pushing ahead for more.

Computer teacher Brenda van Niekerk says she started the eco club in 2019 to encourage pupils to take responsibility for the environment and get them to see that each person can help to make a difference.

She says she also did a lot of research herself and contacted other schools and the Sustainable Schools Programme, a non-profit organisation, for guidance with Bergvliet Primary’s eco efforts.

One of her first initiatives was an eco garden, which she started in 2019, to teach pupils about sustainability and eco-friendliness. It’s also a place for the children to sit, read and relax outside of a classroom setting.

“Our counsellors also use it for children who are troubled and finding things very difficult. This is a quiet space. We give them a watering can, and it is very therapeutic to water plants and to weed the garden, so we get them to do that.”

The 30 eco-club members can fluctuate depending on other commitments, but the club runs throughout the year, and there are beach clean-ups, visits to the shark education centre in Kalk Bay, hikes on the Alphen trail and birdwatching at the Rondevlei nature reserve.

“We have built little birdhouses made with cork bottle tops, and we used toilet-roll inners and covered them with peanut butter and rolled them in seeds, and they attracted birds and squirrels. And it was again to drive home use and reuse,” Ms Van Niekerk said.

The club members have planted a herb section and harvested their own vegetables in the eco garden. They use rainwater from tanks around the school to water their plants.

“We find that children are a little more aware. They will look for a bin to drop their rubbish in it. They will pick up something that is not theirs, not all the time – it is a long process – but they will gladly put it in the bin if you ask them to do it,” Ms Van Niekerk said.

“There are times when they will do it on their own – that was my whole initial idea: to build this responsibility. And we have many children coming every day with empty plastic bottles that they bring to the recycling depot, and I am teaching them how to recycle properly, so that you don’t throw all your recycling together.”

Last year, the school took second and third places in two recycling competitions. It won R4000 in shopping vouchers for collecting more than 17 tons of paper and cardboard and it won R30 000 for its glass-recycling efforts.

School spokesperson Bettie Shaban said the money had been used on goods for the school, its general upkeep as well as improvements at its recycling depot, which was started in the 1990s.

However, the school’s recycling depot manager, Rameez Claasen, said the intake had been sluggish post-Covid and it was possible that many of those who had used the facility in the past did not realise it had reopened in February.

The recycling depot is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8.30 am to 1pm. The depot takes newspapers, magazines, old school books, boxes, and liquid packaging. For more information, call 021 931 5106.

The eco-garden is a shaded area in front of the school where eco-bricks line a pathway and vegetables are grown in old tyres. Picture: Janice Matthews
The recycling depot reopened in February, but staff say the response from the public has been sluggish post-Covid. Picture: Janice Matthews