How to Start a Recycling Program in Your School

How to Start a Recycling Program in Your School

This video is from an older RSP VHS production that is being updated but has valuable information on how and why schools and recycling are a great combination. Please note our contact information in the video has changed.

Also, please visit our Single Stream Recycling Guide for specific information on recycling in Saint Louis County.

Below is general information from the video on how and why schools can benefit from a school recycling program:

By implementing a recycling program, you can help your school or school district:

  • Reduce Waste Improve
  • Resource Management and
  • Foster Student Achievement

Is it necessary to recycle? You decide. The average American generates about 4 pounds of trash each day. That’s three-quarters of a ton per year, or almost 6,000 tons of garbage per person, in an 80-year lifetime. Think about what you threw away today and ask yourself, “Where is AWAY?” Many students ask this question, and they are AWE-STRUCK by the answer.

Most garbage everywhere is hauled by trash trucks and dumped in a landfill. Paper, metals, plastics, construction materials, books and magazines, electronic devices, toys, textiles, organic materials … if it’s trash, it’s landfilled. Compacted and buried, there forever, trash will stay!

Modern landfill technology and strict government regulations ensure safe and efficient operation of landfills, and they are a useful option for disposing of some things. However, 80 percent of the items and materials that are commonly landfilled still have useful life remaining. They could be recycled and made into new products.

Here are some materials that schools can efficiently — and affordably — recycle:

Aluminum -In many schools a club or sports team or even a conscientious individual will collect aluminum cans for recycling. Beverage cans can be readily sold, and recycling aluminum can provide a modest flow of funding for all kinds of special projects.

Cardboard – Recycling corrugated cardboard also benefits schools. Some waste haulers will provide cardboard recycling services separately from trash collection. Bulky boxes can take up yards of volume in dumpsters — and that is space that schools are paying for! When cardboard is broken down and separated out for recycling, the reduced demand for space in your school’s trash containers can reduce your school’s disposal costs!

Plastics, steel and other container materials – Some schools arrange for collection of food and beverage containers made from steel, glass and various kinds of plastic. Recycling these materials might best be tackled as a special project within an established recycling program, but they are important to recycle, because they’re made from irreplacable natural resources.

Organic waste – School yard waste and some cafeteria food wastes can be composted, on-site, with a very simple, student-driven collection system. And the plants in your school garden or outdoor classroom will flourish with the addition of these organic resources.

All of these school waste materials are still useful resources, not just trash! But the most significant, cost-saving waste reduction is achieved when a Resourceful School recycles PAPER!

Paper constitutes 50 to 60 percent of the waste output in any school. It can be both reused and recycled. If every sheet was fully used, on both sides, as scratch paper or for making copies, would your school’s paper costs decrease? And if your school recycled half of all that it normally pays to “throw away,” how much would that cut costs for trash disposal?

To become a Resourceful School you’ll need:

  • Leadership
  • A Convenient System
  • Some Equipment and
  • You’ll need to work with a hauler who will serve your recycling collection needs

Leadership – Typically, a teacher and a class, or a club or team of student leaders will champion recycling in a school. This is a great structure, because, by recycling, students can really “make a difference” in their school. Paper recycling can be a service-learning project — and a focus on paper can initiate lively classroom investigations. Awareness generated by recycling can even translate into Science Fair projects!

Administrative leadership is essential. If your program will be district-wide, establish a top-level recycling policy, which both supports and mandates everyone’s positive recycling efforts. And the motivation and knowledge that can result from recycling will benefit your school’s overall learning environment.

A Convenient System – When recycling containers are clearly identified and handy to access throughout a school, people will get in the habit of using them — just as they’ll find a trash can rather than litter. Establish a regular weekly or biweekly collection day — and form a Waste Management Team of students and adult staff members who will collect the recyclables within your school — and remember to recruit the custodians as part of the team!

Equipment – Recycling bins should be placed in every classroom and office, in the Library and at all adult workstations. Students can reuse cardboard boxes, and mark them as recycling bins with hand-made or computer-generated signage. Some haulers and some municipal governments will provide bins and other kinds of collection equipment, to support school recycling.

Haulers – Some schools work with separate haulers for trash and recycling. Many companies specialize in recycling collection, and schools — which generate large amounts of paper and other recyclable materials — are often sought-after customers. Some haulers charge for recycling pick-up, some collect at no charge, and some may even pay a school for their recyclable materials!

Recycling can also be integrated within your district’s or school’s Waste Hauling Contract. Your hauler will determine the range of materials your school can recycle, and it’s important that adults and students know the items that will be accepted for recycling, to minimize contamination in the stream of recycled resources.

Instead of waste, Resourceful Schools are generating raw materials for manufacturing new products! Each hauler sells these materials to a broker, or provides them directly to a company that makes recycled-content products.

Education — the primary business of schools — is a big winner in recycling, too.

The Resourceful Schools team offers both classroom and project-oriented materials correlated to the Missouri Show-Me Standards, which can be customized to help teachers meet any district’s curriculum requirements.

Teacher workshops are available, as are concise classroom presentations on many resource-related topics. Educational activities in the Resourceful Schools Project combine process and content, in a lively, participatory atmosphere.

Recycling is a hands-on, real-world learning experience. For example, when students make paper as a class activity, the process is a miniaturized version of actual, industrial paper manufacturing! The main ingredients are water, and used paper obtained from recycling collection. Students use blenders, and paper companies use gigantic “hydropulpers.” The final products can be sheets of paper, or molded-paper forms which are used as containers or packing materials. Resourceful Schools students can even visit local businesses, to make a first-hand comparison.

Students apply their math, science, social studies and communication skills, while recycling builds teamwork and problem-solving ability.

From district-wide paper recycling to a special project in a single school, the Resourceful Schools team can help

  • Reduce waste
  • Improve resource management and
  • Foster student achievement

For more information , please contact us!