Recycling Toolkit

Recycling at School | Recycling Toolkit

Teach Recycling and Save

A successful recycling program can both teach students about diverting waste from landfills and potentially save schools money on waste disposal. Recycling in classrooms, cafeterias and athletic fields helps students incorporate these practices into everyday routines, and in turn, share positive environmental habits at home and in their communities. Plus, with a robust recycling program, collection efforts can lead to savings on waste hauler costs and, in some cases, raise funds, as businesses will sometimes purchase recyclables from food wrappers to electronics. 

Starting a Recycling Program at School

Step 1: Identify Recyclables

Spend some time looking around the office to see what materials are generated, the amounts of those materials, and create a map marking where materials are created. Build your program around high-volume items that are easy to recycle and slowly add more items to the program.

For detailed information about what is being thrown away, perform a Waste Audit | Learn More >

Following are common school materials eligible for diversion:

  • Paper (newspaper, books, magazines, files/folders, etc.)
  • Binders
  • Envelopes
  • Cardboard
  • Office supplies (writing instruments, electronics, etc.)
  • Beverage containers (aluminum, tin, plastics 1 – 7, glass)
  • Kitchen waste (food scraps, coffee grounds, etc.)
  • Paper towels
  • Scrap metal
  • Plastic packaging (containers, film, bags, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous items (food wrappers, etc.)

Step 2: Plan and Communicate Your Program

Collection: Now that you’ve identified materials for recycling, choose your service method and provider. You can either work with your current waste hauler to create a recycling program or assign the collection duties to an employee (recycling coordinator) who would be able to collect recyclables and bring them to a local drop off facility (many free options). Be sure to include custodial contractors in the new program, so they can help identify contamination issues.

Communication/Education: Staff and student engagement is vital to a successful program. Continually educate staff and students about proper recycling, contamination issues and any changes to the program.

Ideas for employee/student education:

  • Online recycling guide (internal)
  • New employee training materials
  • Simple signage
  • Monthly update email
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Videos
  • Fundraisers

For more ideas, view Keep America Beautiful's recycling program improvement resources | View Site >

Commitment: Obtain management’s support and create a school policy that provides a clear vision of the waste reduction and recycling goals, including buying recycled products. Creating a demand for recycled products provides incentive for recycling companies to turn more recyclables into new products.

Step 3: Implement Your Program

Setting up the program involves:

  • Getting policy approval
  • Either establishing a contract with a waste hauler or organizing a plan to drop off recyclables
  • Acquiring collection bins
  • Announcing the new program to students and staff

More implementation ideas:

  • Designating a recycling coordinator
  • Setting up an employee/student incentive program
  • Introducing the program at staff meetings/classrooms/PTA events, posting information in break rooms/cafeterias, emailing employees/parents, and keeping recycling information readily available to staff/students