Schools of all sizes can use recycling to reduce waste and encourage sustainability. Anyone, from administrators to members of the student body, can start a school-wide recycling program. However, there are a number of important steps that you will need to take if you want to make the program as successful as possible. Here’s what you should do to create an effective school recycling initiative:
Assemble a team
You’ll need to get many people on board if you wish to make your recycling program a success. Start by choosing someone to fill the position of recycling coordinator. This individual will play an instrumental role in the guidance and management of the entire recycling program. He or she will play a lead role in formulating the plan, promoting its benefits to others, and monitoring its ongoing success. The recycling coordinator can be anyone who is regularly involved in school activities, but he or she should have strong leadership qualities. Administrators, teachers, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) members, and sometimes even older, responsible students make excellent candidates for this key role.
When drafting a recycling plan for your school, it’s crucial to involve maintenance workers, the building or facilities manager, or janitorial staff, since they may be ultimately responsible for collecting the recyclables from bins around campus, ensuring the bins are clean, and other tasks. In addition, the facility manager may be able to help by providing a contact from the waste management company that services the school—the company may also offer recycling services.
Including teachers and students in the creation of the plan is also a good idea. The best way to channel the efforts of these various individuals is to assemble a team of representatives from the different groups. Under the guidance of the recycling coordinator, the recycling team will determine how to implement the school’s recycling plan and how to enforce it.
Assess your school’s recycling needs
Before you can begin the planning process, you will need to conduct a “waste audit” that will allow you to assess the unique recycling needs of your school. You should begin this process by taking a comprehensive look at the existing waste management systems in different school departments. This will help you pinpoint the types and amounts of waste that your students and staff generate on a daily basis.
In order to gain this valuable information, you should include one of your school’s classrooms in your audit. Have someone separate and weigh the waste that they produce in a single day. By multiplying this number by the number of classrooms in the entire school, you can estimate the total amount of trash that you create daily. In addition, by noting the types of waste thrown away, this assessment will also allow you to determine how much of your school’s waste stream is actually recyclable.
To make the most of your new recycling program, you’ll probably need to conduct additional research. Depending on where your school is located, there may be waste management regulations that will determine what you can and cannot recycle, and what collection services are available. Read up on these various laws to ensure that your recycling program will adhere to them.
During your research process, you should also figure out how you will remove recyclables from your school and transport them to a recycling center. Ask your school’s maintenance or facilities manager about your school’s waste management contract, and if it’s possible to add recyclables collection. You may find that your school only works with a waste hauler and that you need to negotiate with a separate recycler.
Determine how you will fund the program
Each school has its own unique waste management costs, which depend on the volume of recyclables produced and how often haulers collect it. You’ll need to determine how your school will meet these costs. Fundraisers are one option that you can pursue to collect donations for your program. You can also look to local, state, and national government agencies, which may offer sustainability grants to schools that operate recycling initiatives.
Formulate a plan
With your research completed and your team in place, you’ll need to design a plan for your recycling program. The first order of business is to determine how you’ll collect and store your school’s recyclables. You’ll need to acquire enough bins to accommodate all the recyclable materials that the school produces. Make sure you provide students, staff, and visitors with clearly labeled receptacles for the different types of recyclables that you plan to collect—for example, each classroom might contain a recycling bin for paper, another for plastics, and one for aluminum cans. In addition to smaller recycling containers placed throughout the building, you should determine how you will store recyclables outside, in between visits from your hauler. You may have to purchase several dumpsters.
Prior to the implementation of your program, you should also establish realistic recycling goals that you’d like the school to reach. You’ll also need to finalize the logistics of how you will move your recyclables between collection sites and how often.
Educate students and staff
Your new recycling program will not be successful without the participation of the whole school. As such, you’ll need to generate school-wide awareness of your campaign through education. Start by holding a meeting for school faculty and staff, during which you can inform them of the program and the importance of recycling. They will then be better equipped to pass this information on to their students at the classroom level. You should also encourage teachers to take their students on field trips to local landfills and recycling plants, so they can get a first-hand look at the waste management process.
Another effective means of educating the school about recycling is to hold an assembly for the students. Invite guest speakers who can give presentations about the impact of recycling, and take time to explain the new recycling program. In addition, you could arrange for some of the students to put on a short play that will inform their peers about the recycling process. Teachers can also have their students create posters to hang above their classroom’s recycling bins—or the labels for the bins themselves. These signs can show which materials go in which bins.