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Recycling in Schools

Setting up recycling in your school is a matter of organization and commitment. Take the initiative and get a program started for your school and your kids.

CalRecycle’s School District Project Diversion Report Waste Prevention GuideSample Campus Environmental Audits and District-Wide Approach to Recycling can help get you started.

California school waste characterization and searchable district waste stream profiles demonstrate that most school material is paper, organics and plastic.

San Mateo County Recycleworks offers an online school waste audit kit

Seven Tips for Starting a Recycling Program

  1. Perform a waste assessment. What is a waste assessment? It’s a survey of what recyclable materials are discarded and where. Take a stroll through your school and record what types of waste are discarded in each area. This walk-through lets you figure out what containers you’ll need. Here are typical materials that be recovered from different areas in most schools:
    • Classrooms – mixed paper, newspaper, glass, metal and plastic containers
    • Library – newspaper, magazines, mixed paper, books
    • Administrative offices – office paper, mixed paper, cardboard, cans, bottles, toner cartridges
    • Food service areas – glass, metal, cans, plastic containers, cardboard (food waste can be separated and composted; grease and oil may be converted into biodiesel)
    • Outdoor & Public areas – newspaper, magazines, bottles, cans
  2. Setup Recycling Containers. Based on the results of the waste assessment, put recycling containers for each material in each area. To begin, you might want to focus your efforts where you have found the most waste.
  3. Label Your Containers. Location and good labeling are critical to every recycling program. Be sure that containers are well-marked. For public areas, you might want to consider special containers that indicate the type of recyclable with a hole or a slot. This will reinforce the goals of your program and reduce contamination (mixing) of recyclables.
  4. Organize Collection. Once you know what will be collected and where, get your custodial staff and groundskeepers involved. Have a meeting to explain to them the importance of recycling and to answer their questions. Show them where to locate new containers, how to collect waste separately, and where to take separated materials.
  5. Publicize Your Project. Once your container, labels, and collection procedures are in place, communicate your program to students and employees. You might consider a kick-off party for teachers and administration. For students, consider talking to each classroom or homeroom. You might also consider an assembly. But one presentation is not enough. Be sure to reinforce the goals, principles, and procedures of your program. This will ensure that your procedures are being followed, will help people remain interested, and provide a forum for questions and new solutions. You can also put information or notices in e-mail, on the school’s web site, or in the school newspaper.
  6. Monitor Your Results. Create a system for keeping track of the amount of materials your program collects. This will help you know you’re receiving proper compensation for your materials and will help you take appropriate action if volumes decrease. Be sure to get your custodial staff involved in this process, and develop a feedback system so that they can let you know where contamination is a problem.
  7. Make Recycling Part of Orientation. Include recycling information in your orientation for new employees and new students.