Today is “America Recycles Day”—a great opportunity to recognize the efforts of so many PLT GreenSchools! that have used the Waste and Recycling Investigation to reduce the amount of trash their schools send to landfills. You’re making a big difference!
With Thanksgiving approaching, it’s also a great time to think about the things we waste—especially food. Many PLT GreenSchools! with school gardens have begun composting uneaten and left-over food waste from their cafeterias and using it to nourish homegrown produce. That’s a great idea, and one you might want to try in your own school.
Need some more inspiration? Check out the recycling program begun by students at Eisenhower High School in Goddard, Kansas. Students there now are in charge of recycling for the whole Goddard school district. In 2011 they recycled 300 pounds of aluminum, six tons of paper, and 80,000 plastic bottles. That’s a whole lot of trash that will never end up in a landfill.
Students at Wolford Elementary School in McKinney, TX, also are recycling superstars. By recycling cans and bottles from the school cafeteria, the students were able to cut the amount of trash going out to the school’s dumpsters by about 30%. Wolford’s Environmental Science Club also has begun to recycle other materials such as printer cartridges, laptop computers, cell phones, printers, video terminals, sneakers, and even eyeglasses (working with the local Lions Club). Last year these efforts raised just over $1,000 from selling these items to certified recyclers.
If your school’s Green Team hasn’t yet started a recycling program, now would be the perfect time. You’ll find plenty of activities and project ideas when you explore the PLT GreenSchools! Waste and Recycling Investigation. (If you haven’t yet registered as a PLT GreenSchool!, doing so now will give you access to all five Investigations that make up the GreenSchools! program.)
If you need some additional ideas, you can check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tips on how to “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” a whole range of materials. Learn more about reducing food waste here. EPA also offers a whole range of ideas and activities for students and teachers, including an interactive video game. You can even get ideas for service-learning projects to reduce waste in your school and community.
You can also view a recording of a PLT GreenSchools! webinar in which Kelley Dennings, Director of Recycling Programs and Services with Keep America Beautiful (KAB) discusses how to set up a school recycling program. And be sure to check out KAB’s Teacher Backgrounders: Garbage Basics; Recycling; Waste Reduction; Source Reduction and Reuse; Composting; Waste-to-Energy; and Landfilling. Lastly, you can find more recycling resources and PLT activities from the Curriculum Resources section of PLT’s website.
PHOTO 1: Blue recycling bins at Wolford Elementary School in McKinney, TX are full as a result of a successful student-run recycling program.
PHOTO 2: A PLT GreenWorks! grant helped Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, KS replace the cardboard boxes that had been used to haul recyclables to their pick-up point.