School Recycling

Whether you are mandated or not, schools should always have a recycling program. If you need to start one, or just need to maintain what you have, the information below can be very helpful.

Why recycle at school?

Schools are the perfect place to recycle. They are a self-contained unit, hosting both children and adults on a daily basis, and generate their own waste. Whether it is from the teacher's lounge, the hallways, or the cafeteria, properly placed recycling bins at schools can genearate a lot of recyclable material.

How do we get started?

Before starting a recycling program at school, you'll need to decide on a few factors:

  1. Who will run the program? Students? Teachers? Custodial Staff? Parents? Each group has a unique take on recycling and may or may not be as enthusiastic as you are about recycling. Student-led programs raise enthusiasm amongst the students, like a "by the people, for the people" effect. Teacher-run programs are better for longevity, as the teachers are usually in the building for more years than the students and can see that the program survives from year to year. Custodial staff should always be involved in school matters. Getting them on board for a recycling program may seem like more work for them, but in the end it is beneficial to all. Parental involvement is also crucial, as it transfers good practices from the school to the home and beyond.
  2. What will you collect? Take a look in the garbage sometime and note what you see. If the school isn't generating a lot of aluminum cans, it wouldn't make sense to collect them. If white paper is common, then that's a good starting point. Find out what the most commonly discarded items are and see if recycling opportunities for that material is readily available in your area.
  3. How will you collect? Schools seem to think that they need a bunch of fancy bins to collect recycling, and without them nothing can be done. Nothing is further from the truth! If it's not in the budget to buy recycling bins, make some! Any container will work. What's most important is the labeling. A garbage can marked for trash is pretty self-explanatory. But if you put a sign on and above the can that says "Recyclables Only", the chances are far better that you'll get what you want. In a pinch, use garbage cans, bags, cardboard boxes, or any other larger container to collect recyclables. Just make sure to label it properly!
  4. Educate! Don't just throw recycling bins out there and expect a program to thrive. Get the students together for an assembly, or have each teacher explain to their classes what is to be done. If nobody knows how to do it, they will never do it!
  5. Where to take them? In some areas, contracted haulers may take your recyclables. There may be a fee involved for the service, but it's convenient and involves minimal transportation of the material. For those on a budget, the Authority's Big Blue Bins are always open. You'll need a plan to get material there, as we can not pick up from schools due to time constraints. Enlist the help of teachers. custodial staff, parents, or even older students to drive material to the bins on a regular basis.

Once you have a program in place, it is important to make sure that it continues from year to year. Student-led programs started as a senior project rarely succeed after that student is gone. The best way to insure the legacy of a recycling program is to have the involvement of all groups represented at the school - students, teachers, and administration. Without this cooperation, a school recycling program can never be truly successful.

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