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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Environmental Assistance and Customer Service - Guidelines

Environmental Assistance and Customer Service

School Recycling

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For more information or assistance with implementing a public school recycling program, please contact:

Rachel Eckert at 919-707-8132 or
Heather Cashwell at 919-707-8127

Guidelines to Starting a School Recycling Program

Photo of paper recycling binFollow these guidelines when setting up a school recycling program:

  • Organize a coordination team.
    • Involve students, parents, teachers, custodial staff, local solid waste or public works departments and community representatives.
  • Determine which recyclables are in your waste stream.
    • Perform a Waste Composition Study and categorize the trash to determine what waste can be minimized or recycled. Use the results of the audit to help create a specific recycling program.
  • Identify a local market for recyclables.
    • Contact local recycling facilities to see what materials they collect and what services they provide. Be sure to find out how recyclables should be separated and what items can be commingled.
    • Find local recycling facilities via the North Carolina Markets Directory Web site at http://www.p2pays.org/DMRM/. Contact the school's current waste hauler to see if they provide recycling services as well. If your local government solid waste office already has a curbside or business-recycling program, see if the school can be added to the pick-up schedule.
  • Select the type of recycling program that would be best for each school.
    • Contract with a private hauler, tap into curbside recycling within the community or establish a mini drop-off facility at the school for the entire community. To prevent the accumulation of items that you cannot recycle, make sure to have all aspects of your program in place before collecting any recyclables.
  • Work out a budget for the collection program.
    • Obtain money from the school budget, PTA fundraising or partnerships with local businesses or civic groups. Recycling should reduce the school’s waste stream, so look into reducing the frequency of trash pick-ups and allocating those savings towards the pick-up of recyclables.
    • Apply for a grant to help fund containers for your program. DEACS administers the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund and uses it to provide grants for waste reduction efforts. Local governments and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply. DEACS encourages school systems, rather than individual schools, to apply for grants.
  • Establish a system for collecting and storing recyclables.
    • Place bins in easily accessible areas within the school. Focus on areas that generate recyclables, such as classrooms, the cafeteria, teacher lounges and copy rooms.
    • Bins can be old copy paper boxes, plastic storage containers or a local government curbside recycling bin.
    • Have students decorate the bins with their own artwork or pictures from the Recycle Guys or RE3.org Web pages. Participating brings students to feel ownership of the program. Each class could decorate its own bin or the school could have a contest to pick the most creative picture for each grade level.
    • Check with the fire marshal for storage and collection requirements.
    • If a private hauler will be collecting the recyclables, make sure to set aside storage space for the containers that allow truck access. Designate a publicly accessible area if establishing a drop-off facility for the community.
  • Educate the school and the community about the program.
    • Inform all school personnel, students, parents and the community how the program will work. Let everyone know what can and cannot be recycled.
    • Ready-made graphics are available on the RE3.org and Recycle Guys websites for easy printing. Monthly newsletters or emails can be an effective way to inform the community and parents of the recycling program’s progress. Educate volunteers and staff on the storage and collection procedures, and the location of containers.
    • Integrate environmental lesson plans and recycling education into the curriculum. Add a North Carolina recycling fact to the school announcements each week, or show the RE3.org or Recycle Guys commercials on school television.
  • Set overall and individual goals.
    • Convey the goals of the project to all participants and give specific examples of how each person, class or school can help reach these goals. Tally the totals and track progress for all to see. For example, put posters in the hallways with fun facts: “Last month the paper recycled from our school saved four trees."
    • To the extent possible, keep track of how many pounds or tons of materials are collected over time to evaluate the program’s performance and to set benchmarks for improvement.
  • Reward the doers.
    • Let students know that a cleaner environment is a prize they can all enjoy. Other incentives can be given to students and classes who participate, such as field trips to a material recovery facility or a landfill and RE3.org or Recycle Guys t-shirts, stickers or posters.
  • DEACS has produced a School Recycling Fact Sheet that offers guidelines and suggestions for implementing a school recycling program.  While a portion of this guidance document examines results from a survey done in 2006, many of the suggestions in the document are still relevant today.Click HERE for a printable School Recycling Fact Sheet PDF.
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