Recycling at School

A District representative can meet with principals, teachers, students, facility managers, custodians, and PTAs to help you design a waste reduction and recycling program that is right for your school. 

Once you have committed to starting a program, complete the Let's Stop Waste at School 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

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 garbage is collected: classrooms; kitchen/cafeteria; offices; teachers’ lounge; gyms and stadiums; auditoriums; and sports fields.

Step 3 – Find a recycling provider

  • Contact the school's garbage hauler to set up recycling service.

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 (see "Role of Recycling Coordinator" below) to coordinate the program.

Phase Two: Implement the Program

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

  • 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 need receptacles suitable for cartons, bottles and cans. Provide appropriate signage of what can and cannot be recycled.

  • Designate someone to take the recyclables to the recycling dumpster regularly. This could be the responsibility of students, Green Team, or facilities personnel. Designate someone to monitor both garbage and recycling dumpsters on a regular basis, and adjust service as needed.

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.

  • 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, and in newsletters. 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

  • 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 by including recycling facts in morning announcements and newsletters.

  • 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.

Role of Recycling Coordinator

Just as with any other program, an effective recycling program needs leadership. A recycling coordinator can be a teacher, administrator, or parent volunteer. Recycling coordinators usually take responsibility for:

1. researching a recycling service to pick up recyclables
2. organizing the recycling collection system.
3. getting students and staff involved in the program and providing education.
4. 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 just  needs to few hour 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 waste sorting stations, or other age-appropriate tasks.

School Recycling Program Checklist
Use this checklist to guide you through the above process of setting up a recycling program at your school.

Resources for Recycling
Check out these additional school recycling options, as well as ways to reduce waste at school. The District also produces Spencer's Spotlight newsletter and other educator resources