Expanding Your School Recycling
and Waste Reduction Program
Waste audits (also called Waste Assessments) provide valuable information for schools. They are a systematic way of determining the composition and quantity of your waste. They expose the largest waste contributors by weight and by volume. The process of conducting a waste audit is to measure the weight/volume of the different categories of waste produced by a school over the course of one day or longer period of time. This helps identify the aspects of a waste reduction program that need improvement and the categories of waste that have been successfully removed. A waste audit provides data that can be analyzed and monitored as new waste reduction techniques are implemented. The following guides provide step by step instructions for conducting a waste audit and contain useful tables for documenting your results.
Waste Audit Guides
Recycling Makes Sen$e - A Waste Prevention and Recycling Guide for Businesses, Schools and Municipal Offices (Northeast Recycling Council) - This guide includes Waste Assessment Instructions and Waste Assessment Sheets in the Appendices
Wisconsin School Waste Audit Guide (Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin)
Hornsby Shire Council School Waste Audit Guide (Hornsby Shire Council, Australia)
The Standardized Waste Audit (ChangeWorks, Scotland)
In addition to the traditional recyclables (paper, bottles, cans), schools often have special categories of waste. These categories may include school supplies, school lunch trash, including packaging waste and organic waste, paint, laboratory and photography chemicals, cleaning supplies, and small electronic waste. The ultimate goal of a waste audit is to reduce the amount of waste you are disposing. Therefore, conducting a waste audit must be followed by product specific waste reduction strategies. The resources provided will assist you in finding ways to prevent pencils, apple cores, and ink cartridges from entering the waste baskets in your classrooms.
For items that appear in your waste stream and are not listed below, such as art supplies, waste oil, batteries and grass clippings, etc., visit DEEP's "What Do I Do With…?" webpage for guidance on how to reduce, reuse, recycle, or dispose of those materials.
Electronic waste, or E-Waste, is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the country. Wastes included in this category range from computers and TVs to ink cartridges and rechargeable batteries.
Connecticut Electronic Waste Basics (CT DEEP)
State Electronics Challenge (Northeast Recycling Council)
The Electronic Wasteland - Following the Trail of Toxic E-Waste (CBS News Report, 60 minutes)
List of E-Waste Recyclers (US EPA)
Additional List of E-Waste Recyclers (Earth 911)
Ink and Toner Cartridge Recycling (STAPLEs)
Regardless of the reason, whether your pen ran out of ink, the metal rings on your binder no longer close, or you have too many colored pencils, you will undoubtedly find school supplies (e.g. binders, pencils, glue sticks, folders, etc.) in your waste stream. School supplies can be removed from the waste stream through product specific recycling programs, "Re-supply Centers," and environmentally preferable purchasing. These are just a few strategies for reducing your school supply waste stream. Remember to be creative!
- Encourage staff and students to reuse office supplies such as paper clips, rubber bands, file folders, binders, and notebooks.
- Buy refillable mechanical pencils and pens.
- Be creative! Some of the items may make great crafting materials.
Start a ReSupply Center
A ReSupply Center gives gently used school and office supplies the chance at a second life. You will need a few key items to establish a ReSupply Center at your school:
- Reduce packaging waste by encouraging parents and students to pack lunches and snacks in reusable plastic containers and lunchboxes.
- Replace disposable lunch trays with reusable ones.
Industrial Rag Handling Fact Sheet (CT DEEP)
Checklist for Print Shops (New Jersey, DEP)
The dry and wet photographic chemicals used in the development of film and photos in your school’s darkroom often contain hazardous ingredients. Use the hazardous waste determination fact sheet and the Connecticut Regulated Waste webpage to determine if your processing chemicals are hazardous. If your chemicals are considered hazardous waste visit the RCRA Help webpage for information on the proper disposal mechanism for these chemicals. Some companies will also take back your used chemicals for recycling. You can use the tool on the Earth 911 webpage Tips for Recycling and Disposing of Photographic Chemicals to find a recycling or disposal area near you.
Middle school and high school laboratory chemicals can be toxic, caustic, and hazardous to your health. Proper storage and disposal of these materials is essential. Recent changes in Connecticut’s hazardous waste regulations allow many small hazardous waste generators, like schools, to bring their waste to household hazardous waste (HHW) collections. To see if your school is eligible to participate in one of these collections, see the DEEP’s Household Hazardous Waste/Small Business Collections web page. These household hazardous waste collections take in hazardous wastes such as oil-based paints, pesticides, fertilizers, thinners, acids, mercury, gasoline and other household chemicals. If your school qualifies you can bring your chemical waste to the local HHW collection events for disposal. Contact your local HHW facility to guarantee that they will collect specific chemicals. If your school does not qualify as a CESQG, refer to the Small Generators Guidance Document to find out how to properly dispose of your waste. Do not throw these chemicals in your normal waste stream and never pour organic solvents down the drain! You must collect these solvents in the appropriately labeled containers and store them properly in your storage cabinet until your disposal date. More accurate purchasing can help reduce the quantity of waste being stored and the cost of your hazardous waste disposal. Communicate with your procurement officer, so they can make more informed purchasing decisions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the launch of two public websites, ToxCastDB, a toxicity forecaster database, and ExpoCastDB, a database of chemical exposure studies. The EPA believes these websites will be helpful for the public in examining and determining the potential risks of chemicals. ToxCastDB is a searchable database that estimates the potential toxicity of the chemicals. ExpoCastDB collects human exposure data from measurements taken in homes and child care centers. It also includes data on quantities of chemicals in food, drinking water, air, dust, indoor surfaces, and urine. In addition to the launch of these sites, the EPA recently declassified over 100 health and safety studies involving chemicals in dispersants and consumer products that industry previously kept confidential.
Sources of Chemicals in Schools (US EPA)
Building an Integrated Chemical Management Program for Schools (Pfizer; LEARN)
Household Hazardous Waste (US EPA)
Medical/Infectious Waste Disposal (CT DEEP)
If your school has not adopted an environmentally preferable cleaning strategy you may encounter hazardous cleaning products in your waste stream. These cleaning supplies could include used gloves, paper towels, residual solvent-based cleaning products, such as spot removers, degreasers, or products containing ammonia or chlorine bleach. First, encourage your school to purchase environmentally preferable cleaning supplies. This will reduce your hazardous waste disposal needs and the disposal costs. Unwanted or leftover hazardous cleaning products should not be disposed of in the trash, flushed down the toilet, poured down the sink drains, nor should they be poured into storm drains or onto the ground. If you have hazardous waste contact your town’s Department of Public Works to inquire about bringing your materials to their household hazardous waste collections, or contact a licensed hazardous waste hauler to help with your disposal needs.