Waste Reduction at School
The 3Rs have changed their meaning from the days of the one room schoolhouse. With protection of the environment foremost on everyone’s mind today, we need to do our part for our children’s future. By practicing the 3Rs in school, we can guide the next generation toward environmental responsibility, divert waste and conserve resources all at one. Here’s how to start:
Waste Reduction Step 1- Reduce
The best way to reduce waste is to create less garbage in the first place. For example:
- Promote litterless lunches.
- Use two-sided photocopying whenever possible. Better still, is it necessary to send everyone a copy at all. Post minutes of meetings on a bulletin board rather than make multiple copies. Is each sibling in a family taking home the same notice? A little organizing can reduce waste and paper costs.
- If you are working on a computer, make sure the document is edited and proofed before pressing the "Print" button.
Waste Reduction Step 2 - Reuse
Encourage reusable’s, like pens with refills, tape dispensers and toner cartridges.
- Reuse scrap paper in the classroom or administration office. Have a "one-side-still-blank" bin next to the copier.
- Encourage the community to donate things that can be reused. Containers, cloth and other discards have always been used for crafts. But what about asking for donations of old computers, office equipment and furniture that could be rescued from the trash.
- Consider reusable dishes and cutlery for the cafeteria. This sends an "avoid disposables" message to the students.
- A swap day or flea market of donated items helps as a fund raiser and diverts reusables from the trash.
Waste Reduction Step 3 - Recycle
Most of the waste in schools is paper and paper products. And most of that is generated right in the classroom.
Set up a recycling program in the school. Involve the students in collection, promotion and marketing of the material. In general a recycling program is set up like this:
- Discuss the existing waste handling system with the custodian. Determine what is in the waste that can be recovered. If the school has pop machines, for example, place recycling bins strategically throughout the school to recover the containers. Arrange for a group to return the deposit containers for a refund. Contact your nearest bottle depot for information.
- Determine where the recovered material would go. Is there a recycler nearby that would accept paper for recycling? What materials are accepted by your solid waste commission? Contact your Solid waste commission.
- Set up the program with the help of the students. Assign monitors to keep on top of potential problems, like the wrong material going into the recycling bin. Environment clubs in many schools perform this role.
- Monitor the results and provide feedback to the students and staff. A contest to see who can create the least waste can be a useful motivator. (Be careful with a contest that rewards the most recycling; participants may simply waste paper so that it can be recycled.)
- Consider a composting project in the school. Again, enlist the environmental club to set it up.
The 3Rs are only a start to sound environmental education. Programs, speakers and class trips related to environmental issues can be added to the school’s curriculum. Here are some ideas:
- Have a paper making session. Using a blender, shredded paper, water and a screen to demonstrate the recycling process.
- Discuss the life cycle of a product, from mining the raw materials to finally burying it in a landfill. Explore waste reduction opportunities at various stages in the process.
- Go on tours of waste management facilities, recycling plants or remanufacturing industries. Even see how a local repair shop gives an appliance a new lease on life (and reduces waste).
- Explore the science of composting and how micro-organisms break down organic material. Start a worm composting bin in your classroom.