The USEPA provides many resources for recycling in schools, but the best place to start is with your solid waste management department. Because what gets recycled is different in every locality, it can be a challenge to use some federal programs. That’s what Dane County did, and they’ve had tremendous success building a pilot program that works for the infrastructure in place and their school system.
Two parents got the process started with a cafeteria waste audit. The enthusiasm generated by the waste audit encouraged parents, custodial and school staff, and students to join forces to launch a small recycling program. The objective was to capture milk and juice cartons and paper lunch trays for recycling from the cafeteria. Putting recycling practices into
action, on consecutive days, the a single elementary school reduced the waste volume to just 13-16 bags of trash from 60 per day.
The Carton Council of North America, an industry association committed to growing carton recycling across the U.S., provided grants to the school district to help grow and expand the program. They worked closely with SCS Engineers and Sustain Dane to lead the efforts to scale up the recycling program in Wisconsin’s second-largest school district, Madison Metropolitan.
The program continues to expand with help from pilot programs in more schools, association support, and close coordination with the solid waste department and school administration. It just goes to show that community-based initiatives that foster student creativity and address a community problem do work.