Starting a Recycling Program for Your School
Whether your school wants to start recycling or augment an existing program, this guide will help you get started.
Bolster support. Recycling is easy, but convincing those in charge to recycle is often not. Start by meeting with principals, administrators, teachers and parents to get everyone behind the idea. Once you have the higher-ups on board, excite the students by holding an assembly about the importance and benefits of recycling. This is the perfect time to also educate the school on proper recycling techniques-for example, separating glossy paper from regular notebook paper. The easier you make it on everyone, the more likely you are to gain their enthusiasm.
Appoint an organizer. Pick an individual or group-preferably parents, teachers or administrators-to run the program. Encourage students to help through an after-school club or organization, but try to avoid appointing them to run the program themselves. Organizations are often more willing to talk to adults, plus as students shift grades the organizers will change.
Decide what to recycle. Take a close look at what your school throws away, which should help you figure out what you'd like to recycle. You may want to focus on recycling paper and cardboard, or you might choose to collect aluminum cans. You might also decide to collect hard-to-recycle items, like batteries or electronics. Whatever you decide, it's best to pick one or two items to start and build your program from there.
Choose the program that suits your needs. You can choose from a number of different kinds of recycling efforts. See our list of program types below. Find a home for your recyclables. Visit Earth 911 or contact your local municipality to find out where you can dispose of certain materials. Be sure you have a place for the recyclables to go before you start collecting.
Plan storage for the materials. Plastic bins and cardboard boxes work wonders for storing recyclables before they leave your school. If you plan to collect food containers, be sure to rinse them thoroughly to avoid any creepy critters. Label each container clearly and include any necessary instructions (i.e., "Break down cardboard boxes.")
Offer incentives and rewards. Encourage students, teachers and administrators to participate by making recycling just as easy or easier than throwing items away. Offer multiple recycling bins for every trash can, and include receptacles for every kind of recyclable item you want to collect. Try setting up a competition in the school for which grade gathers the most recyclables, or a quiz students on the importance of helping the environment and offer prizes for the winners.
Types of Recycling Programs
One-time or Occasional: Have families bring in recyclable items once a year or periodically (try once a month or once a semester). Everyone brings in their materials and volunteers collect them, sort them and take them to recycling centers in the area. This plan is also good if you want to organize a reuse program, like swaps and donations.
Ongoing: Throughout the year, continuously collect recyclable items such as paper, glass or aluminum. Plan for the materials to be collected regularly, either by a recycling company or by volunteers who will then drop them off at designated centers.
Permanent Collection Center: Turn your school into the local designated collection point where community members can drop off their recyclables anytime. Arrange for the materials to be collected or organize a team to gather and drop them off.