Today’s blog highlights successful K-12 recycling education programs in Wisconsin’s green schools that walk the walk in teaching kids and their parents important lessons about sustainability and the environment. Wisconsin’s Green Schools Webinar entitled “Re-imagine, Re-design & Re-cycle: School Waste Collection Systems That Work!” is taking advantage of the Carton Council funding to further zero waste in schools. The webinar is free to attend and open to everyone, with content designed specifically for K12 champions leading recycling programs for their school or district.
As schools set their sights on zero waste goals and seek to shift as much material from the trash to recycling and composting streams, they need an efficient material management system that is easy to use for students and staff alike and is sustainable to operate. Attendees of this webinar will hear directly from three different school districts about their recent innovations in bin design, construction, and placement.
The event includes students building receptacles and hallway recycling programs that are helping to maintain one district’s classroom eating program. The programs are re-imagining unique systems for collecting valuable items such as milk carton material.
Panelists include Brittney Albin, Sustainability Coordinator for Lincoln Public Schools; Chris Jimieson of SCS Engineers and a parent recycling advocate; and Madison Metropolitan School District’s Jeremy Drake, a Principal at Strategy Zero Waste Solutions.
Mar 22, 2023, 04:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)
The Carton Council will award $2,000 each to 25 communities that improve their resident education, with special attention paid to food and beverage cartons. Additionally, there will be first, second, and third-place prizes to recognize winners who provide outstanding communications and marketing efforts. 1st place will receive an additional $3,000, 2nd place an additional $2,000, and 3rd place an additional $1,000. More information about how communities can participate is here.
Recycling Tips and Resources for schools, parents, and municipalities:
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.
Setting up a school zero waste program takes time, patience, excellent collaboration and communication, and a team that wants to achieve the same goal of zero waste. Tracie Bills recommends a realistic approach in her article. She provides examples and describes how a consulting firms, such as SCS Engineers, assist schools without materials management programs to launch zero waste programs.
Building a successful program does not happen overnight, but you can do it!
Tracie Onstad Bills is SCS Engineers Northern California Director of Sustainable Materials Management. She has over 20 years of materials management experience, including working for a hauler, a county government, and a nonprofit, and over 12 years of experience with materials management consulting firms. She has provided commercial sector materials flow assessments; organics processing research and analysis; waste characterization studies; and recycling, organics, and waste management technical assistance to government agencies, schools, multi-family dwellings, and businesses. Ms. Bills has an environmental science degree from San Jose State and is an instructor for the SWANA Zero Waste certification program.