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Recycling at Middle and High Schools

I recycle do you?

Whether you are a school administrator concerned about increasing solid waste disposal costs, or a recycling-conscientious student, setting up or improving an existing school recycling program can create a learning experience for all involved.
Most schools in our District have access to a school recycling program for commingled recyclables.  Commingled recyclables include all types of classroom paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic containers, metal containers, cardboard, and more! 
Middle schools and high schools typically have student groups that are responsible for collecting the recyclables from classrooms and then transporting the material to the large outdoor recycling dumpsters.  At some sites, custodians may provide some assistance, but this is not normally the case.

Check out the CAMPUS RECYCLING PROFILES page to see what type of programs SDUSD middle and high schools have set up.  While you're at it, check out the Get Your Green On! newsletter/blog for information, resources, and updates on recycling efforts at SDUSD middle and high schools. 

If your school is a charter school or not part of the San Diego Unified School District, click here for information on how to start a program at your school!
dont feed landfillHow can I recycle at school?
First, check to see if your school already has a group on campus, such as an Eco Club or Green Club that has taken on the recycling program.  Sometimes the ASB or special education classes have adopted the recycling program. If there is a recycling group at your school, but it seems they are not able to keep up, perhaps they need more members or another group to get involved to share the responsibility.  If that's the case, consider getting your friends together and offer to help out!
  • If there is no recycling group on campus, why not start one? Make sure your schoolrecycling administrators are on board and find out what you need to do to start a new club on campus.  Check out the Do Something website for information on how to start a Do Something club and the chance to get a $500 grant to get your club off the ground.  This grant money could be used to purchase additional recycling containers to support the effort at your school. Unfortunately due to tight budgets, our District is unable to purchase additional bins at this time.
  • Involve the custodial staff from the beginning and get their support.  They will need to know that your group will be emptying the recycling bins from various classrooms and they may be able to help set up a collection schedule.  Some schools place larger blue recycling containers or carts in the hallways and ask that each classroom empty their own small recycling bin into this larger container. The custodial staff or student group then empties these larger containers into the recycling dumpster.
  • Classroom-by-classroom collection of recycling bins may occur with schools that have active recycling groups. These classroom recycling bins do not necessarily have to be emptied every day, but can be scheduled for collection once or twice per week, before or after school.  All recycling bins should be located next to trash cans to avoid contamination of the recyclables.
  What to recycle
blue symbolCheck out this link to see a detailed list of what can be recycled at your school.  Our school district combines all of the paper, cardboard, bottles, and cans together in one bin.  This is called a commingled, or mixed recycling program. 
  • Mixed paper includes notebook paper, spiral notebooks (plastic and metal spirals are OK), printer paper, poster paper, colored paper, newspaper, magazines, phone books, books (remove hard covers), folders, envelopes (windows are OK), post-it notes, and paperboard boxes (tissue boxes, food and packaging boxes,mixed recyclables etc.).
  • Beverage containers are often collected separately from mixed paper and other recyclables, because they can be taken to a recycling center and redeemed for cash.  Many clubs and groups use this as a way to raise funds for their program. Volunteers must separate the plastic from the aluminum, empty any liquid and remove lids, and then transport the recyclables to a recycling center.  Check out Earth911 for locations of nearby recycling centers.
  • cardboardCardboard is a significant portion of the school waste stream, the majority of which is generated from the kitchens and store rooms. Usually  kitchen and custodial staff will transport the cardboard directly to the outdoor recycling dumpsters.  Ask them if they need help if you notice a lot of cardboard in the trash dumpsters.
  • Plastic, glass, and metal containers are also collected in the District's recyclingbin with plastics program.  These can include food service tubs, cans, and jars, and even plastic buckets, baskets, and toys!  Make sure you check the detailed list of what can be included in the program so you can inform students and staff on how to participate. Or better yet, let them know about this website so they learn more about the District's programs.
Recycling Bins
  • Make sure all recycling bins are well marked to ensure they will receive the intended recyclable material. Consider attaching this sign to the recycling bins or tape it above the bins.  Contamination of recyclables can be a big problem, so you want to make sure everyone knows what to do.
  • If your school is short on recycling bins, begin investigating where you can get your hands on some.  Due to tight budgets, our school district does not have extra funds to purchase new bins at this time.  We are always looking for grant opportunities or donations that can provide resources for our recycling program. 
  • In the meantime, ask your school's PTA, PTO or Foundation about setting up a fundraiser to buy recycling bins for your campus.  Perhaps a local business would be able to sponsor the purchase of bins for your school.
You'll have to spread the word about the recycling program to get staff and students involved. Check out the Do Something Awareness Campaign action guide for more suggestions.
peace love recycle
    • Post eye-catching signs or posters around your school. Make sure these are in prime locations and contain detail about the locations of the recycling bins, what can go in them and why it's so important to recycle.  Many schools have talented artists or even visual arts classes that may be able to help out.
  • Hold a kick-off event to announce your program.
    • Write an article about the recycling program for your school newspaper.
    • Make A/V announcements.
    • Make a video.
    • Get your group to sponsor recycling and awareness activities.
      • Freshman recycling awareness orientation
      • Celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd every year with some type of event
      • Celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15th every year
      • Encourage end of the semester Clean out Your Papers Day
      • Donate prom dresses
      • Donate school supplies at the end of the year
      • Compete with another school to see who can recycle the most, or get the most pledges to recycle, or ???
    Don't Stop Here
    There are tons of ways you can keep looking out for the environment.  Look at ways you can: