Facility and Efficiency Improvements Concerning Waste Reduction and Recycling for a Healthy School Environment

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Planet Protectors ClubGet recycling basics, information on used electronics and composting and links to what you can do in your community, for:

Why It's Important

  • Schools accumulate tons of waste—from paper and computers to food and books. Waste reduction makes good business sense because it can save money through reduced purchasing and waste disposal costs.
  • Schools may bring in additional revenue by selling recyclables that have financial value.
  • Properly handling waste influences the future of the school and its students, and can also have a significant impact on the environment. 

What You Can Do

  • Follow the four rules of waste reduction:
    • Reduce—prevent waste generation by purchasing, consuming and throwing away less
    • Reuse—repair, donate or sell items
    • Recycle—collect recyclables to prevent the need to harvest new materials from the Earth
    • Buy Recycled—purchase products made of recycled materials
  • Use EPA's Tools to Reduce Waste in Schools to implement new, or expand upon existing, waste reduction programs. 

EPA and Federal Partners

  • EPA's WasteWise Program  is a free, voluntary program through which organizations can eliminate costly municipal solid waste, benefiting their bottom line and the environment. The program enables partners to design their own solid waste reduction programs tailored to their needs.
  • Tips for a Waste-Less School Year on the EPA website provides consumer tips to reuse common materials, choose nontoxic alternatives and increase recycling efforts.
  • Municipal Solid Waste, more commonly known as trash or garbage, is addressed on the EPA website. The website provides U.S. facts and figures, offers management tools and other publications and addresses recycling and sustainable materials management.
  • Composting for Facilities on the EPA website explains the science behind composting, discusses types of composting and common compostable materials and provides information on laws and statutes as well as links to publications and resources.  
  • EPA's Food Recovery Challenge encourages organizations to to improve their sustainable food management practices and report their results. Participants prevent and divert wasted food in their operations, and any organization can join as a participant or endorser.

National Organizations

  • Hazardous Materials in Schools: Resource List by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities offers an annotated list of links, books and journal articles on the identification, treatment, storage and removal of hazardous materials found in school buildings and grounds.

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Regional, State and Local Resources

  • Sensible Steps for Healthier School Environments by EPA provides an overview of issues related to waste reduction in schools.
  • Food Scrap Management on the California Integrated Waste Management Board's website provides information and resources to help reduce food waste and save money on disposal costs. Resources include food scrap prevention tips, lists of local food banks and food rescue programs, and onsite and offsite composting options. Regional compost workshops and special event information is also available.
  • Waste Chemical Disposal Guidance for Schools (PDF)(46pp, 363K) by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment helps those responsible for administering or improving waste management programs at local schools throughout Kansas. This document provides information regarding non-hazardous and hazardous waste, but does not prescribe in detail all required factors and considerations for their management.
  • The Waste Reduction Awareness Program (WRAP) from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, developed in partnership with the Association of Oregon Recyclers, recognizes school waste reduction programs that are permanently integrated into school operations and classroom curricula.
  • School Composting: A Manual for Connecticut Schools (PDF)(98pp, 3.4M) by Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection the outlines the steps necessary for establishing and maintaining a successful school-wide composting program for cafeteria food scraps.
  • Waste and Recycling Resources for Kids and Teachers are provided on the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website. Resources include information on starting a school recycling program as well as curricula, activities, displays and presentations.