How to Start a School Recycling Program

An American student uses roughly 600 pounds of paper per year. Recycling 2000 pounds of paper (3-4 students' worth) saves 17 trees, 380 gallons (1,438.5 L) of oil, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7,000 gallons (26,497.9 L) of water. If you want to start a recycling program and your school and reduce your impact, wikiHow can help.


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    Get a group of students together and decide what type of recycling program you want to tackle. You'll never believe how many materials can be recycled: paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastic, glass, steel, electronics, cellphones, and more.
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    Ask a teacher to mentor your project. The teacher will know of any school protocols you will need to follow and will be able to facilitate contact with your school's administrators. A teacher may also have access to funding to help your program get started.
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    Organize a collection program. You have to decide when the recyclables will be collected and who will collect them. Once they are collected, how will the materials be separated and where will they be stored?
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    Establish a pickup or drop off program for the recyclables you collect. There are plenty of companies out there that will pay you for your recyclables. Some will even come to your school to pick up your stash. Find out who your local recycling companies are and call them.


  • While collecting recyclables, if you find that not many classrooms are recycling, host a Recycling Contest. Prizes can be bonus points, homework passes, a pizza or ice cream party, or even gift certificates to local businesses.
  • In 2009, the Student Conservation Association had a Green Your School Contest. Below, a student from Gladstone High School, who entered the contest, said this about his recycling project that focused on recycling old computer parts. "The idea from this project came about when we had numerous students without working computers at home to do schoolwork and other computing functions. Instead of forcing those students to have to come to school to do these tasks, we thought it would be a great idea to give them a computer of their own. We put our heads together, as the Green Club, with the technology class and figured out that there are multiple benefits to this project. One, being that we are keeping these electronics out of the landfill. Two, that we are humanly disassembling these machines. Three, that we are providing families without the funds to buy a new computer, a recycled computer that works."


  • Plan, plan, plan. Collecting the recyclables is only half the battle. But what will you do with them once they begin piling up? Plan ahead, failure to do so will jeopardize your entire project.
  • Putting out recycle bins in your school is not enough to maintain a thriving recycling program. You must get students and teachers on board. The easiest way to do this is through word of mouth, morning announcements, and through a some sort of contest.
  • Often, doing it alone does not pay off. Getting your local community involved in your school's recycling program will help ensure the success of the program. Look to local newspapers for support.

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Categories: School Stuff | Social Events for Youth