How To Reduce Waste And Improve Recycling In Schools

Last updated on October 13th, 2021

A good and well organized waste management program in school, is not only good for the environment, but it can also save energy and money.

It’s also good for the students to learn and adopt a way of life that has the lowest impact on the environment.

Learning how to separate waste at source, the basic rules of recycling and ways to produce compost at home from a young age can achieve impressive results.

A bit of statistics about school waste

The waste quantity and type depend heavily on the number of students and the activities held in school.

According to the study “Digging Deep Through School Trash”, developed by “Minnesota Pollution Control Agency”:

  • More than 78% of school waste consists of organics and paper. Thus it could be easily deviated from the trash just by applying composting and recycling collection programs.
  • Food waste is the most common material met in school bins, reaching 23.9% of total school waste generated.
  • Recyclable paper forms 23.5% of school waste, coming second with little difference from food waste. It is noted that recyclable paper includes all types such as white office paper, mixed paper and cardboard.
  • Average daily waste generation per pupil is over half a pound. That means that US generates daily more than 27.75 million pounds of school waste.

Steps for a good school waste management program

You will be surprised of how easy it is to adopt students and school staff to a waste management program, just by applying the following tips.

1. Define the Waste streams in the school area.

The number of waste streams is defined by the type and quantity of the waste produced in the school. The minimum number of streams suggested for small schools and waste quantities is three: a) food waste, b)paper and c) rest/commingled waste.

For big schools and higher waste quantities, the suggested streams are six: a) food waste, b) paper & cardboard, c) metals, d) plastics, e) glass and f) rest/commingled waste.

2. Supply equipment for recycling and composting.

No special equipment is required to imrpove current situation. All you need is (at least) one garbage bin for each waste stream and one (or more) composter(s), depending on the waste quantities.

Very important parameter is to place the bins on the correct spots of your school area. A place easy to access and with good visibility is definitely the right place. In that way the students will always keep recycling in their minds.

The best but maybe most costly way, is to place small bins for each stream, inside the classrooms and bigger ones in the front yard.

3. Teachers and school staff should be the role model for the students.

The school’s staff and especially teachers, should be enough informed about the applied waste management program of the school. They should always encourage recycling and have a big contribution to the school’s recycling program.

4. Include a lesson about recycling in school’s education program.

At least one lesson about recycling should be included in the school’s education program. Teach the students about the benefits of recycling. For example, when the compost is ready use it either in green areas of your school or students can take it home for their gardens.

Additionally, recycling can be mentioned during other lessons. For example during a computer lesson, e-waste can be easily mentioned.

5. Pull together as a waste management team.

The waste management team may consist of both teachers and students. Their responsibilities may include monitoring of the waste management program and of the progress of the composting  process. Additionally, the team should inform and encourage others to recycle.

6. Organize visits to waste management facilities.

Visits to WM facilities can help students to understand that a big part of the waste they produce is not really waste, and can be reused and recycled to produce new products.

7. Create Events and Competitions.

Make recycling seem like a game with an event or a competition with prizes among classes. Students will find enough motivation to participate to schools recycling program.

8. Make use of paperless methods.

Technology gives the opportunity to reduce paper usage. Make use of digital technology in lessons, including electronic documents, emails, videos, etc.

9. Donate the old equipment.

Recycle all the old equipment that is replaced. This can be done by donating them to local organizations and bring the useless equipment to a local recycling facility.

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