According to Treehugger, on average, schools throw out 38 tons of paper each year, which equals 644 trees. However, each ton of paper recycled saves 17 trees. Schools represent an important opportunity for increased recovery of high quality paper much needed to make new products. Here are 10 steps from Earth 911, for the development of a school recycling program.
1. Identify recyclables. Conduct an audit to determine the amount and types of recyclables in classrooms, staff offices, food service areas and libraries. This assessment will also provide information about where most of the recyclables are generated. Determine the best way to separate and collect recyclables for clean and easy recycling. Start with what is most abundant in the recycling stream, which will likely be various types of paper.
2. Determine what to collect. Talk to the school’s recycling company or the community recycler for information about which materials are accepted for recycling. The recycler may require a certain measurement (either weight or volume) of recyclable materials in order to establish a contract.
3. Generate school administration support. As you begin to design a program, it is important to enlist the support of school administrators and custodial staff. Use the data gathered during the audit, discussions with recycling collectors and input from any local paper companies to determine the potential value of a school recycling program. Also consider benefits to students, the school, the environment and the community. Use this information to formulate a program and build ownership among key school officials, faculty and staff.
4. Designate a program coordinator. To help get things started, appoint a recycling coordinator and a supporting team. The coordinator and his/her team will be essential to the success of the program by providing organization, education and enthusiasm for the recycling efforts.
5. Organize collection procedures. Work with administrative and custodial staff to create a collection system that encourages student participation and ensures that recyclable materials are kept clean.
6. Phase-in. For smaller schools, it may be possible to start the recycling program all at once. For larger schools, begin with a short pilot or test program in a cluster of classrooms or offices. This will help the program coordinator and team monitor student and staff response to the program, assess the amount of recyclables collected and address specific contamination issues.
7. Hold a kick-off event. When you’re ready to begin the program, start with a kick-off event that includes students, faculty, custodial staff, parents and community recycling leaders. This is an opportunity to build awareness, encourage program ownership and educate your audience about what and how to recycle.
8. Involve students. Student participation will help generate enthusiasm for the program. Encourage students to monitor specific bins and assist with the collection of recyclables.
9. Education is essential. Education is the most important part of any program. Educate students, faculty and custodial staff about the benefits of recycling and the specifics of the program. Make presentations, share information, use peer education, arrange field trips, focus on teachers and engage students.
10. Keep track. Track results to evaluate program value. Work with the recycling company to gather information, usually monthly, on the amount of material that is recovered for recycling.
Sustaining a school recycling program takes ongoing effort. Each time a new school year starts or students return from a long summer or holiday break, education needs to be reinforced.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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