WM-How to Start a School Recycling Program Mixed Material

A school recycling program is a great learning experience for your students.  Below are suggestions on how to start and maintain a successful program.  WM can assist in every aspect of the program.

School Coordinator/Recycle Committee

Designate a staff member as the Recycling Coordinator and/or a Recycle Committee of students and staff to implement the program.  Also, Building Maintenance/Custodial Staff buy-in is necessary at this stage.

WM Collection:

WM provides 2, 4, 6 or 8 cubic yard designed recycle dumpsters.  These are placed outside near the trash containers and are collected by a separate vehicle.  All cardboard should be broken down to save room in the container and save on collection costs/emissions.  All office paper, plastic and cans are mixed in “CLEAR” plastic bags, tied tightly and placed in the designated recycle dumpster.

Inside Collection Containers:

  1. Use the attached School Waste Audit form to determine the number of inside collection containers needed for the school.


  1. Each area that generates paper, cans or plastic must have a designated recycling container.  There are many companies that sell such containers; however, the best container is one that is made from reusable material.  Copy paper boxes, packaging boxes or food boxes make great recycle collection containers.
  2. Have a decorating contest between classes or speak to the Art Teacher and make it an Art Class project.  Each box should indicate “Recyclables ONLY” and “NO TRASH PLEASE”.
  3. Encourage students and staff to reuse paper out of the recycle collection containers to help reduce paper consumption.

Resources to purchase containers:
Sturdy Cardboard Desk Side, Desk Side and Intermediate Containers
One Earth Corporation
Phone:  (800) 779-3062


12, 14 and 18 Gallon Plastic Recycle Bins
Cascade Engineering
Intermediate Recycle Containers

  1. You may want to designate a few (or more depending on the school) 32-gallon trash type cans for “Recyclables ONLY” lined with the clear plastic bag.   Once the classroom container is full, a student or the teacher empties in the intermediate container.  The custodial staff removes the bag, ties and places into the outside dumpster as needed.  If the intermediate container is not used, the custodial staff will empty each classroom recycle box into a clear plastic bag before placing in the outside container.  Intermediate containers work well in the cafeteria and kitchen for collection of plastic bottles and cans.


You must make everyone aware of the new recycling program.  When you pass out the individual recycling containers, include a memo explaining the program along with the recycling guidelines.  The memo should be from a peer with supportive comments from a superior asking people to participate.  Include some facts from the fact sheet to get peoples attention.  Encourage staff to display the recycle guidelines in the classroom above the recycle box.  Discuss the importance of reusing paper from the box before recycling.

Go to www.thinkgreen.com for recycling educational materials, virtual tours of a recycling center, teacher and student resources and more.


Monitoring the Program

The program may need some help in the first few weeks.  Check the intermediate containers periodically to ensure only recyclable materials are in the bins.  Give feed back to staff and students on what is and what is not recyclable.  After a few weeks or periodically, give updates on how many resources you have saved from your recycling efforts.


Resources Saved  Updates

It takes less water, energy, oil and natural resources to manufacture an item from recycled material than raw material.  Each month, the following resources are saved each time you fill up your recycling dumpster:


Container SizeResources Saved

2 cubic yard container:7Trees

31Gallons of Oil

2,131Gallons of Water

1,242Kw-hr of Electricity


4 cubic yard container:14Trees

62Gallons of Oil

2,131Gallons of Water

2,484Kw-hr of Electricity


6 cubic yard container:21Trees

93Gallons of Oil

6,393Gallons of Water

7,452Kw-hr of Electricity


8 cubic yard container:28 Trees

124Gallons of Oil

8524Gallons of Water

4968Kw-hr of Electricity


If your container is dumped twice per week, double the amount of resources saved and so on.  Use this information to create the recycling poster attached.






Recycle Facts


  1. Your recyclables are collected and hauled to a Material Recovery Facility or MuRF.  The material is sorted by using screens, magnets, electronic sensors, air blowers and people.


  1. Once the material is sorted it is baled and then shipped to end-users right here in Michigan and all over the world.  End users are companies who use materials generated from recycling programs to create new products.  For example, plastic may be melted and formed into park benches, t-shirts or new bottles.  The steel can you recycled last year, could be a part in your new car such as a fender or engine component.  Glass is melted at high temperatures and formed into new bottles and jars.  Newspaper may end up as a cereal box on your breakfast table or a new newspaper.


  1. Help complete the recycling loop by purchasing products made from or packaged in recycled material.


  1. Waste Management recycled enough paper last year to save over 41 million trees.


  1. The average American throws 4 – 5 pounds of trash away daily.  That is one billion pounds of waste each day in the U.S.  The annual U.S. production of trash would fill a convoy of ten-ton trucks five times around the equator or half-way to the moon.


  1. Americans make up 5% of the worlds population and create 50% of the world’s garbage.


  1. By recycling just one – three foot stack of newspaper, you save one 80 foot tree.


  1. More than 56 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. during 2007 was recovered for recycling — an all-time high. This impressive figure equals nearly 360 pounds of paper for each man, woman, and child in America.


  1. The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.



School Waste Audit


School Name:_________________________________________

Walk-Through Performed By:___________________________Page_________Of________



















(Breakdown and Place Loose in Recycle Container)


RECYCLE:    Clean Corrugated Cardboard Only



Styrofoam Lunch Trays

Waxed Or Glossy Coated Cardboard

Cardboard With Grease/Pizza Boxes

Foil Lined Boxes

Shrink Wrap Or Plastic

Wood Or Styrofoam Packaging

Inner Bags From Beverage Boxes








  1. When in doubt, throw it out.  Please do not risk contaminating the material.  If an item is used regularly, please consult your school recycling coordinator.


  1. Place all recyclable paper in a separate CLEAR PLASTIC BAGS & TIE TIGHT BEFORE PLACING IN THE CARDBOARD recycling container.


  1. Place all recyclable PLASTICS AND CANS in a separate CLEAR PLASTIC BAGS & TIE TIGHT BEFORE PLACING IN THE CARDBOARD recycling container.


  1. Breakdown cardboard and place loose in recycle container.


  1. Please make sure all participants are aware of these guidelines to prevent land filling due to contamination.