The world population currently stands at more than 7.2 billion people, and this number is rising continually. In the United States, the population as of 2015 is more than 320 million people. As the world population grows, the amount of human waste grows with it. Recycling and reducing personal waste is an effective way to control the amount of trash that accumulates in landfills. Recycling can occur at numerous levels, including home, work, and schools. When kids learn about recycling, it helps empower them to make a difference. School programs can implement recycling to get kids excited about environmental responsibility.
Schools can produce significant waste with instructional materials, paper, food, and used electronics. Teachers and students can work together to help the environment and reduce trash. Recycling programs in schools can be both educational and enjoyable for everyone. When kids learn these important environmental lessons during childhood, they may be more likely to adopt responsible habits that carry on into adulthood. When students learn about recycling, they can gain an awareness about how personal actions can have a long-lasting and far-reaching effect. Even the practice of recycling paper instead of throwing it away can have a significant impact on the number of trees cut down to make paper products.
Paper trash may be one of the largest sources of waste generated by schools. Most types of paper are recyclable, including copy paper, computer paper, notebook paper, school letterhead, colored paper, file folders, and paper grocery bags. When educational institutions separate paper from other trash, it's possible to reduce the amount of waste produced significantly. Each classroom should have receptacles for paper waste and regular waste. To work effectively, these receptacles should be different colors so students can tell the difference between the containers. Both containers need clear labels for trash and paper products to help students throw items away correctly.
Recycling and reducing waste can also occur in the cafeteria. Schools can adopt new policies that will help reduce the amount of trash generated in the cafeteria. Buying food in bulk instead of in individual containers is one effective way to reduce waste. Schools can also set up receptacles for recyclable trash, such as some food containers and juice boxes. Schools could also implement a system for managing cafeteria waste. In the process of preparing food for students, cafeterias tend to produce significant amounts of food waste. Set up compost bins to collect food waste such as fruit and vegetable cuttings, coffee grounds, and used tea bags. If the students add leaves and grass trimmings to the food scraps in the compost bin, they can make compost for use in a school gardening project.
The administrative staff of schools can also get involved with recycling and reducing trash. Instead of throwing out old electronics such as computers and printers, the school can donate them to organizations that accept them. It's also possible to recycle toner and ink cartridges instead of throwing them away. By setting up a school supply exchange, students and teachers can donate items they don't need, such as binders, folders, pencils, and glue sticks. Anyone needing these items can simply take them from the stock instead of purchasing new supplies. And it's often possible to donate used textbooks instead of throwing them away.
Administrators, faculty, and students can work together on recycling teams to help schools reduce the amount of waste produced. Get students involved with analyzing the amount and types of waste produced by the school. Sorting and recording the contents of trash bins in classrooms is one way to find out what a school is throwing away. After seeing what types of trash could be recycled, it's time to set goals for recycling. Identify materials that could be recycled and make a goal to collect them. Next, the team should implement a system for separating trash and collecting recyclable items separately. Students could even create a map of the school to plan the location of recycling receptacles. Students could also work on posters to hang around the school to raise awareness about the new recycling initiatives.
Learn more about recycling in general and implementing recycling programs in schools by visiting these resources:
- What Do Your Recyclables Become?
- Recycling Plastics Is as Easy as 1-2-3 (PDF)
- Common Recyclable Materials (PDF)
- FAQ for Recycling (PDF)
- Top 10 Recycling Tips
- Waste-Reduction Tips
- Recycling Facts and Fun (PDF)
- School Waste Study
- Schools Play Major Role in Great American Cleanup (PDF)
- Wee Recyclers (PDF)
- Recycling Is Elementary: A Study in Change and Conservation (PDF)
- A Middle School Curriculum on Recycling (PDF)
- The Lunch Line With Recycling in Mind (PDF)
- Recycle Me! The Tree (PDF)
- Where Do Things Come From? (PDF)
- Wise Use of Paper
- Kids' Recycling Tool Kit (PDF)