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Part 1: How much waste does your school produce?

  • Weigh a typical classroom’s trash at the end of each day for one week.
  • Average the weight of the trash over the five days.
  • Multiply this number by 20 to obtain an estimate of trash produced per month for a classroom.
  • Multiply this estimate by the number of classrooms to get an estimate of trash disposed by all classrooms per month.
  • Do the first three steps for the cafeteria, library, teacher work room, office and other school areas and add the results to the total amount of trash from classrooms to obtain a monthly total.

  • 10 lbs. + 7 lbs. + 5 lbs. + 12 lbs. + 6 lbs. = 40 lbs./one classroom/week
  • 40 lbs.÷ 5 days = 8 lbs. of waste produced per classroom per day
  • 8 lbs. x 20 school days = 160 lbs. of waste produced per classroom per month
  • 160 lbs. x 20 classrooms = 3,200 lbs. of waste produced by all classrooms per month
  • 3,200 lbs. classroom waste + 1,800 lbs. waste from other areas = 5,000 lbs. by the school per month

Part 2: What is the composition of school waste before recycling?

Separate the waste from the classroom trash bin into the following categories. If possible, do this waste separation activity for other areas of the school, such as the cafeteria, offices, and library/media center:
  • Paper: newspaper, notebook paper, magazines, boxes, wrappers
  • Plastic: disposable food service products (plates – e.g. Styrofoam, cups, cutlery), product wrappers, food and beverage containers, markers
  • Glass: marbles, food and beverage containers
  • Metal: paper clips, staples, aluminum foil, food and beverage containers
  • Food: classroom snacks, cafeteria food waste
  • Wood: toothpicks, cedar chips, blocks, pencils
  • Other: rubber bands, fabric, balloons, mixed material (e.g. plastic and metal) products

Next steps:
  • Weigh the separated waste.
  • Average the weight of each trash category.
  • Convert to a percentage.
  • Record the data on a chart and graph the results.

Part 3: How much of the school’s waste can be recycled?

  • Separate recyclable materials out of each category from Step 1 (this should be materials that can be recycled in your community) in a typical classroom at the end of each day for one week. Remember, just because a product can be recycled doesn’t mean that it is being recycled in your community.
  • Weigh the amount in each category and average for the week.
  • Multiply by 20 for the average weight per month for the classroom. If possible, do the recyclable separation for other areas of the school, such as the cafeteria, offices, library/media center, etc.
  • Multiply by the number of classrooms and add the weight from the library, cafeteria, teacher workroom, office and other school areas to determine the amount of recyclable materials that your school will produce in a month.
  • The recycling team should collect all the results from Part 1 through Part 3 and set a school recycling goal based on the results. Additionally, the team should display the results (in the form of charts or graphs) in a prominent location in the school.