One thousand plastic bags that would otherwise be clogging landfills have been fashioned into a funky rhino by environmentally conscious pupils of Lilyfontein School.
Named Walter by the school’s art and permaculture teacher Emma Rankin, the 3D rhino is another of the school’s creative art projects that teach children how to marry recycling with creativity.
In 2015 the resourceful pupils of the Brakfontein eco-school made a striking colourful mural from 20 000 plastic bottle tops, which was triumphantly installed near the school’s entrance.
“We wanted to inspire children to look at rubbish in a different way,” Rankin said.
“For the rhino they collected about 2 000 bags and because we gave them a three-week time period, they could see how many bags could have been thrown away in such a short time.
“It is a visual reminder of how much waste we produce.”
Children were encouraged to source harder-to-find multicoloured bags by rewarding them with house points, before the plywood frame was built by parents Lynne and Sean Price. Grade 6 pupils Hannah van Kets and Ilke King, both 11, won a design competition and the colourful bags were arranged according to their blueprints.
“I wanted to make my design as special as rhinos are and to show off the horn,” King said.
Van Kets said her design hinged on a mixture of cool and hot colours to enhance Walter’s frame.
“We made the plastic carnations by cutting off the tops and bottoms of the bags, cutting them into strips, curling them up and securing them with florist wire,” Rankin said. “We packed them tightly to give Walter a puffy look.”
In the spirit of limiting waste and recycling, plastic bag cut-offs and unused bags have found a use in the permaculture garden and art room.
Rankin said she and the children wanted to focus on protecting surviving rhinos: “They are crazy about the environment and it is part of their outdoor education and environmental awareness as an eco-school.”
She said Lilyfontein was chosen as one of the “Big 5” eco-schools in the country by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) at the end of last year and had also been awarded its diamond status for 10 years as an eco-school.
Now that Walter is almost done – he still needs a few floral arrangements tucked around his paws – Rankin is looking forward to the school’s next ambitious arty recycling project for this year.
“We are going to build a classroom out of plastic bottles. We will ask children to collect plastic water and cooldrink bottles, which will be filled with sand and non biodegradable material. These will be the bricks. Then we can use the classroom for outdoor education.” —