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14 JAN 2022

Pre-schoolers take the lead to make the world a better place… and buy a class pet

At the Rainbow Family Centre in Minto, the preschool class now has an aquarium of pet stick insects, thanks to their decision to fundraise with Return and Earn. The centre has long incorporated sustainability into its ethos, and in March they made a service-wide pledge to reduce waste contribution, says Director Rachel Middleton.

As part of this pledge they have scaled up recycling, including taking children on excursions to return bottles and cans at Return and Earn reverse vending machines (RVM). Families are invited to bring empty containers to the centre, along with other recyclable materials.

“Children encourage their families to bring bottles and cans because they want to be able to return them. The more we have, the more they get to place in the RVM, which is always the highlight of our trip,” says Rachel.

“There is always a great buzz when the children gather up the bags of donations and load them into our centre bus for a trip to our local RVM,” she adds.

Four-year-old Zara says, “I love going with my friends, we get to put the bottles in the machine. It’s fun.”

“We should recycle not throw rubbish away, it’s better for the environment,” explains Braxyn, age 5.

The children also help decide how to spend the container refunds – and one of the first decisions was to get a class pet. The pre-schoolers were involved in the entire process – deciding what pet they wanted, researching pet care and costs, and budgeting.

“We decided to use this as a wonderful learning opportunity,” says Rachel. “The children are now actively involved in caring for our pets – and learning empathy, care and responsibility.”

“Being involved in this entire process allowed our children to develop a wide range of skills, many of which they will be able to transfer to a variety of real-life situations both now and as they grow,” says Rachel. “Who knew four- and five-year-olds could set goals, make decisions, research, create a budget, run a pop-up shop, work collaboratively and achieve what they set out to do, all while making a positive difference to our environment? Well, we did!”

The centre has raised more than $250 through container returns so far. As well as funding the stick insects, the pre-schoolers have also donated money to a local charity to help provide school supplies to underprivileged students and are now fundraising for ecofriendly toys for the centre.

Rachel adds that it’s important for children to grow up knowing that they can make a real difference in the world. “Not only is it teaching them how and why to recycle, it is also giving them the understanding that there are ways that individuals and groups can actively become involved in being part of the solution,” she says.


Return and Earn recommend checking the status of your nearest return point on our website at before visiting, and avoiding peak times where possible.

Anyone visiting a return point must ensure they comply with the latest Public Health Orders. This includes checking-in via the QR code displayed, wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and practicing good hygiene.

Interested in fundraising through Return and Earn like these pre-schoolers? Find out more on our Fundraising page.

Return and Earn is a partnership between the NSW Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway.