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How To Start A School Recycling Program in 6 Steps

How To Start A School Recycling Program in 6 Steps

Did you know that up to 80% of the waste produced in schools could actually be recycled?

A majority of the waste produced in schools isn’t disposed of properly leading to excessive trash and large disposal costs.

In many cases, large amounts of paper, food packaging products, commercial cleaning supplies, and other waste that is generated are simply thrown out instead of being recycled or composted.

One way to reduce the amount of waste your facility produces is to implement a recycling program.

With an effective recycling program, your school will enjoy reduced disposal costs, improved perception, and increased sustainability for your facility.

An effective school recycling program will target the waste that is most commonly discarded in your facility and use well-placed recycling bins to encourage proper disposal.

This will allow your school to minimize the number of recyclable materials being sent to landfills through regular waste haulers.

And, if your school uses compostable materials, you can include composting in your recycling program to further reduce waste. You will also need to make sure that there is a facility near you that accepts compostable materials.

Below, we will review what a recycling program is and how you can create and implement one in your school. We will also cover the best way to make adopting your recycling program easy for the people in your building.

What is a Recycling Program?

A recycling program is a system that is created to outline how waste in your facility will be disposed of.

Waste should be separated as it’s collected, which allows it to be disposed of in the correct way.

The materials that the items are made from will determine how they are disposed of.

Some materials, like paper and plastics, can be recycled. Other materials like molded fiber and bagasse should be composted, instead of thrown into the trash.

recycling bins

With a good recycling program, you will be able to reduce the amount of recyclable or compostable waste that is sent to landfills by your waste hauler.

What Are The Benefits Of Recycling In Schools?

There are many benefits of adding a recycling program to your school, including:

  • Reduced Waste Cost
  • Improved Facility Perception
  • Increased Sustainability

Reduced Waste Costs

It’s important that the items in your facility are being properly disposed of so that you are getting the most out of your recycling program.

If you are providing the people in your school with environmentally friendly materials but they can’t recycle or compost them, you will be wasting money.

For example, some schools provide their students with compostable products, which are typically more expensive, to meet sustainability goals and create a greener facility.

If these products aren’t being composted, you are wasting money because they aren’t being disposed of properly. Most compostable containers, trays, bowls, plates, or cutlery must be commercially composted. These products won’t completely break down if they’re sent to a landfill.

Pro Tip: Commercial composting is the process of providing constant high temperatures to composting piles to breakdown materials added to piles.

Commercial Composting vs. Home Composting: What’s the Difference? 

In general, the cost of disposing of compostable materials is more expensive than just recyclable materials, but it is still a cheaper option than sending all of your trash to a landfill.

Improved Facility Perception

The way your school looks plays a big role in how the people in your building perceive your facility. This includes the way your school chooses to package food and beverages.

Placing recycling bins and signs around your building will help communicate that you and your staff are making efforts to be more sustainable.

An effective recycling program will include informative actions that will help the people in your facility understand how to recycle the materials they’re disposing of. This will make it easier for them to follow and support your school’s recycling program.

This includes using flyers, posters, stickers, and verbally communicating the expectations for recycling.

recycling posters at school

Providing your staff and students with visual reminders of how materials like paper, plastic, and aluminum should be recycled will help enhance the effectiveness of your recycling program.

A well-planned recycling program can also help maintain your school’s appearance because the program will showcase the efforts your facility is making to lower its ecological footprint.

Well-placed recycling and composting bins will help encourage everyone who enters to do their part in disposing of waste properly.

Increased Sustainability 

Properly disposing of trash and other waste in your facility will boost your school’s sustainability efforts.

Recycling in your school will lead to sending fewer recyclable and compostable materials to landfills.

It is also an educational opportunity to teach students and faculty sustainable practices that they can take home with them.

How To Start A Recycling Program At Your School

  1. Build Support For The Recycling Program
  2. Speak To The Current Waste Collector
  3. Perform A Waste Audit
  4. Build The Recycling Program
  5. Implement The Recycling Program
  6. Analyze And Maintain The Program

1. Build Support for the Recycling Program

The first step in creating a recycling program in your school is to generate support from the people in your school. With their support, you will be able to introduce the program knowing that they are willing to participate in your proposed plan.

If you implement a program that the people in your school are not willing to follow, waste may not be properly managed and disposed of. Instead of creating a positive impact, your recycling program will be ineffective.

One way to avoid this is by talking about the benefits of recycling to students, staff, and other officials to see if they’d be interested in a recycling program.

Getting the students and faculty to participate in the planning and implementation of your recycling program will help increase its adoption within the student population.

You can create a student and staff recycling program board to help promote the initiative and make it easier to adopt within your school community. During meetings, the student board can discuss the benefits of recycling.

2. Speak to Your Current Waste Collector

Once you have the support of the people in your school, you should reach out to your waste collector.

Your waste collector is the company responsible for disposing of the waste being produced by your school. You will be able to ask them questions that will help you gauge the importance of a recycling program and give you insight into the waste your school currently produces.Commercial Compost FacilityRecyclable Foodservice Products

Some of the questions you should ask your waste collector include:

  • How much of your current waste is recyclable?
  • Do they accept recyclable materials?
  • What kind of recyclable materials do they accept, if any?

With the answers to these questions, you will then need to perform an audit of the waste in your facility and determine how to proceed.

Depending on the type of materials that are being disposed of regularly, you may need to look into adding recycling and composting bins in your facility.

3. Perform a Waste Audit

A waste audit will be able to identify the types of waste that you and the people in your building discard on a regular basis.Foodservice_Supplies_Hero

You and your staff can either perform a waste audit yourselves or you can hire a third-party service. During the waste audit, you will identify how often the people in your school use recyclable or compostable materials like:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Plastic Bottles
  • Cans
  • Glass
  • Food Waste

A waste audit will help you identify the most problematic items that are being incorrectly disposed of in your facility. These will be the items you focus on during your recycling program.

If your current waste collector doesn’t accept materials that are disposed of in your facility, you may be able to switch to products made of materials that they do accept.

4. Build Your Recycling Program

The next step in creating your recycling program is to build the system you would like to implement.

You will need to decide:

  • How many recycling (or composting) bins are needed in your school?
  • Where should recycling bins be placed for the most effective collection?
  • What is the best material for the recycling bins in your facility?
  • Where will waste be stored until it’s picked up?

How Many Recycling Or Composting Bins Are Needed In Your School

The number of bins you will need in your school will depend on the number of people that are in your building. In general, you will need one recycling bin for every 50 people in your school.

The number of bins will also depend on the type of waste that you identified in the audit. If you have a large amount of paper being discarded in classrooms every day, you will need more paper recycling bins in your classrooms.

Failing to have enough recycling bins, will lead to a lack of recycling due to full or overflowing trash bins.

If your school’s recycling bins are full, students and faculty will be more likely to avoid using them to avoid creating a dirty environment. 

Where should recycling bins be placed for the most effective collection? 

Recycling bins should be placed in several areas throughout your school. First and foremost, they should be placed in the cafeteria, where food and packaging waste needs to be collected.

There should also be at least one recycling bin in every classroom. This will allow teachers, students, and faculty to have easy access to recycling bins during the day.

The goal is to make adoption as simple as possible by making the program easy to use.

What’s the best material for the recycling bins in your school?

There are many different types of recycling bins you can choose from depending on factors like foot traffic, location, amount of waste, and budget.

Recycling bins come in a variety of colors, sizes, and materials. Commercial recycling bins are commonly made of durable plastic so they don’t break during everyday use, but they can also be made of materials like concrete and metal.

You can use color-coded recycling bins in your facility to visually signal what should be disposed of in each bin.

For example, for your school’s cafeteria, you’d likely want larger recycling bins that are able to hold a lot of waste before needing to be emptied. Different colored bins can signal where paper, plastics, metal, and food waste should be placed.

Where will waste be stored until it’s picked up?

Once you have figured out how to collect the recyclable waste in your facility, you will have to determine the best space to store the materials until they’re picked up.

You’ll have to be careful you’re not storing flammable objects, like paper, anywhere that will create a fire hazard.


5. Implement the Recycling Program

Once you’ve created a plan for your recycling program, it is time to implement it.

Education is one of the biggest parts of implementing a recycling program. You will need to place visual aids near the recycling bins in your facility to let students, faculty, and other people in your facility know what materials are being collected in each bin.

You can use the information gathered from your waste audit to communicate what specific products and materials should be recycled throughout your school.

Properly educating the people in your building will help reduce the chances of the materials being improperly disposed of.

Without education, you may notice that your recycling program isn’t being followed, simply because people don’t understand that they are doing something wrong. To avoid wasted efforts, education and training are key.

6. Analyze and Maintain the Program

After you’ve successfully developed and installed your recycling program, you should take the time to regularly check the efficacy of the program.

Performing a waste audit after some time will allow you to identify whether or not your program has been effective at reducing the amount of waste being sent to the landfill.

If you perform a waste audit and notice that something hasn’t been working, you can adjust the program to address the problem.

For example, if you notice that there’s organic waste or compostable materials in the wrong recycling bins, you may want to consider adding compost bins in your cafeteria. You can also update the visual aids in your program to give students and faculty more information on how they should be separating materials in your facility.

Final Thoughts

A recycling program is a critical step to improving your school’s impact on the environment.

Implementing a school recycling program not only reduces the amount of recyclable waste that is sent to landfills but also lowers the costs of waste disposal for your facility.

Recycling waste in your school will also help improve facility perception, and provide the people in your building with education on how to support sustainability.

If you need help creating an effective recycling program,  Imperial Dade can help. We also offer a variety of recycling bins to help you customize your school recycling program and meet the unique needs of your facility.

Reach out to a specialist today for more information on the necessary steps for creating a good school recycling program. We can help you support your sustainability goals whether you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, or Canada.

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