Recycling at School

Recycling at school may seem like a daunting project. The District is here to help. Call our office at 513-946-7737 to speak to our Program Specialists about technical assistance.

Recycling Assistance Program

A District representative can meet with principals, teachers, students, facility managers, custodians, and PTAs to help you assess your school’s waste stream and determine what program is right for your school. The District can help you design your collection method to have minimal impact on custodians; educate staff, students, and parents; and generate school pride and enthusiasm for the program.

Once you have committed to starting a program, complete the Recycling Assistance Program Registration Form and School Recycling Plan Worksheet. The District will provide the following services:

Step-by-Step Guide to Set-up a School Recycling Program

Principals, custodians, food service staff, teachers, and students all have responsibilities to make sure that recyclables are kept separate from the garbage and properly placed out for collection.

Phase One – Develop a Program

Step 1 – Learn about the current state of waste management

  • Seek support and input from your building manager, principal, and teachers.

  • Learn how waste is currently handled and if the school is recycling anything. 

Step 2 – Determine what can be recycled

  • Look at the school’s waste to see what can be recycled. This can be as easy as looking in each garbage can and estimating the amount of the different materials, or as thorough as conducting a waste audit.

  • Visually inspect various locations where trash is generated or collected: classrooms; kitchen/cafeteria; offices; teachers’ lounge; gyms and stadiums; auditoriums; lobbies; and building dumpsters.

Step 3 – Identify a recycling provider

Find a business or businesses that can pick-up and process recyclables.
Step 4 – Designate a recycling coordinator and support team

Recruit a recycling club or Green Team. This could include the principal, building manager, teachers, and students. Designate a Recycling Coordinator to coordinate the program

Phase Two – Implement the Program

Step 1 – Write a step-by-step guide for recycling in the school

  • Decide what material you want to recycle.

  • Set program goals (e.g., decrease number of garbage pickups to __ per month, reduce yearly paper usage by __ reams, expand beyond paper recycling to include cartons, bottles and cans).

  • Tour the school buildings and grounds to determine where recyclables should be collected and type(s) of recycling receptacles needed at each location. In classrooms you will need containers to collect paper; in the cafeteria, kitchen, teachers’ lounges, gyms, and outdoor sporting areas you will probably need receptacles suitable for cartons, bottles and cans. Don’t forget about the areas that generate cardboard waste. You may even need all-weather receptacles for outdoor areas.

  • Determine who will generate and deposit recyclables into recycling receptacles and provide appropriate signage of what can and cannot be recycled.

  • Once the recycling receptacles are full, decide where the material is taken. Make sure you designate someone to take the recyclables to the recycling dumpster/tote so they don’t end up in the trash. This could be the responsibility of students, Green Team, facilities personnel, etc. Designate someone to check dumpsters on a regular basis, and call for a pick-up before they reach capacity.

Step 2 – Obtain and place recycling collection containers

Acquire and distribute recycling receptacles. Use only clear liners/bags to collect recyclables. Always put recycling receptacles next to garbage cans and make sure each recycling receptacle is well marked with signs (paper recyclinglunch recycling) to prevent contamination

Phase Three – Promote, Maintain, and Improve the Program

Step 1 – Kick off a new program any time of year

  • Inform everyone about the program with signage, emails, morning announcements, newsletters, etc. Let people know what can be recycled and where the recycling containers are located.

  • Consider having a kick-off event with an assembly or classroom programs.

  • Remind everyone of the recycling program at the beginning of each school year.

Step 2 – Monitor for contamination and landfill dumpster usage

  • Keep records of how much you are recycling.

  • Monitor the recycling containers and check for contamination. Adjust signage if you notice many mistakes.

  • Monitor landfill dumpster and decrease pick-ups as needed to make recycling financially sustainable.

Step 3 – Report results and continue promoting program

  • Provide positive feedback by informing students, teachers, administrators, parents, and the community of your successes.

  • Promote the benefits of recycling  Encourage consistent recycling habitats by hanging posters, including recycling facts in morning announcements, newsletters, etc.

  • Consider having recycling contests like a zero waste lunch day where each grade or class competes to produce the least amount of lunch waste.

Step 4 – Reassess program and identify possible improvements

  • Set aside time with the Green Team to evaluate what is working and what isn’t. This step may need to be done at intervals throughout the school year, and certainly at the end of every school year.

  • Identify, recognize, and share your successes!

  • Identify possible improvements and create a plan to implement those changes. This could include ways to reduce contamination in existing recycling bins, reducing garbage service if warranted, or adding new material(s) to be collected for recycling (e.g., adding carton, bottle, and can collection to an existing paper-only program).

Role of the Recycling Coordinator and Green Team

Just as with any other program, an effective recycling program needs leadership. A Recycling Coordinator can be a teacher, administrator, or parent volunteer. Whether the person volunteers for the position or is appointed, Recycling Coordinators usually take responsibility for:

  • Researching a recycling service to pick up recyclables.

  • Organizing the recycling collection system.

  • Getting students and staff involved in the program and providing education.

  • Tracking the progress of the program.

Depending on the size of your school, the Recycling Coordinator may spend anywhere from a day to a week to launch a recycling program. After the program has started, the coordinator usually needs just a few hours each month to oversee the program.

In addition to the Recycling Coordinator, it’s helpful to have a group of students involved who can monitor an area, grade level, or floor. This could be a Green Team or an Environmental Club. Team members make sure recycling containers are conveniently placed next to trash cans and ensure they are relatively free from contamination. . They can make posters to place around the school, read recycling facts on morning announcements, assist students at cafeteria recycling stations, or other age-appropriate tasks.

School Recycling Program Checklist

Use this checklist to guide you through the process of setting up a sustainable recycling program at your school.

Resources for Recycling:

School Recycling Options

Reduce Waste at School

Educator Resources