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It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home K-12 Schools 12 Steps toward Sustainability Solid Waste Reduction & Recycling

Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling

K-12 schools purchase large quantities of materials which often result in large volumes of waste. A typical college or university’s waste stream is either ultimately burned in a waste to energy plant or an incinerator or put into a landfill. However, burning solid waste is extremely toxic, and landfills leech chemicals into the groundwater. Therefore, as institutions that teach future generations how to demonstrate leadership in society, it is imperative to establish waste management and reduction, as well as recycling ethics and strategies into students' curricula.

    People are much more likely to recycle when it is convenient for them; these bins contain separate units for paper, cans, and trash, ensuring convenience.
  Organizational Assistance   Best Practices  
  • Establish a Waste Reduction Ethic
    In order to encourage students and staff to commit to managing their waste stream, it is necessary to gain their support by initiating a waste reduction/recycling ethic in school. One strategy is to reward students with a share of the money saved by recycling. Savings can be calculated by weighing the total recycling output. Savings from increased recycling can then be compared against the costs that would have been paid to remove the additional trash. Establish a recycling center in all classrooms, cafeterias, and hallways. Engage students in waste management by including them in the collecting and tracking of material. Education is also an important factor in encouraging recycling; good habits formed early on will last a lifetime.
  • Perform Waste Stream Analysis
    It’s necessary to analyze how, what, and where waste is produced when trying to reduce waste output in your school. Whenever a school has a higher than average waste contribution, the cause should be determined. With proper analysis of the source and types of waste produced, appropriate reduction programs can be designed and implemented effectively.
  • Minimize
    Memos and photocopies are huge sources of waste paper, while electronic messaging and email require no paper. When possible, scan documents and distribute them in an electronic format rather than making photocopies. If it is necessary to make photocopies, copy double sided. Also, minimize the amount of school publications printed, such as newsletters and directories; many such publications are often over-printed. It is not usually necessary for two people who share the same office or cubicle to each have their own school directory. Utilize easily updated listings on a shared computer drive rather than using quickly outdated, and expensive, paper copies.
  • Provide Convenient Stations
    No matter how supportive an administration may be for recycling, many individuals will not recycle if they have to put forth too much extra effort. Therefore, in offices and hallways there should be recycling centers located on every floor at a minimum. Studies have shown that people will almost always recycle when there is a recycling bin nearby. Also, make sure there are bins clearly labeled for paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, ink cartridges, and batteries. Ink cartridges and batteries are less frequently discarded, so a more centralized collection area may be adequate.
  • Special Collection Days
    Special collection days are events where students, faculty, and staff can bring their recyclables, and are given points based on how much they collect. Prizes are then given to those who bring the most. Collection days create incentives to collect recyclables while further instilling the ethic of sustainability.
  • Promote Repair and Swap
    Many outdated office and classroom appliances are still usable. A print shop for the school newspaper might get a new printer or IT a new computer even if the older models are still functional. Try to use this older equipment in other areas around school. If there is no place where the equipment can be used in school, consider donating it to other schools or organizations. You can also establish an electronic bulletin board as a “Swap” listing for surplus equipment. This reduces the demand for new goods, reducing the financial burden on other schools, and reduces societal costs. Reuse or appropriate retirement of computers should be an area of attention. Computer parts have trace amounts of a variety of rare metals that can be extremely toxic. Using these systems prevents them and their toxic elements from ending up in a landfill. There are many companies who will recycle electronics at no cost, look them up online to find out more information.
  • Recognize Performance
    Make sure that those who recycle receive recognition for doing so. Encourage a culture of recycling in the school and classroom. Any classroom or department that reduces their waste output should be acknowledged.
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