Designing For Recycling In Schools

A Fact Sheet for Architects and Engineers

Creating Space for Recycling

In accordance with the Mandatory Recycling Act, Connecticut schools must recycle right along with other municipal agencies, residents and businesses. This act has been in effect since January 1, 1991. Planning for everyday waste recycling is an integral component of Building Operations Resource Management which in turn, is a larger part of sustainable and high performance building design, which effectively promotes ongoing resource conservation.

Mandatory Recyclables

In accordance with Sections 22a-208a and 22a-256a of the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) and Section 22a-241b of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies (RCSA), the following items are mandatory recyclables in Connecticut:

  • Glass and Metal Food and Beverage Containers
  • Plastic Containers (PET or PETE #1) - New as of May 1, 2012
  • Plastic Containers (HDPE #2) - New as of May 1, 2012
  • Waste Oil (crankcase oil from internal combustion engines)
  • Storage Batteries (from motor vehicles)
  • Scrap metal
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Boxboard - New as of May 1, 2012
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines - New as of May 1, 2012
  • White & Colored Office Paper (residences and businesses) - New as of May 1, 2012
  • Leaves (must be composted)
  • Grass Clippings (banned from disposal - should be left on the lawn or, if necessary, composted)
  • Ni-Cd Rechargeable Batteries (from consumer products)
Compost Food Scraps

Although not mandatory items, cafeteria food scraps and kitchen prep waste are recyclable through composting and/or collection for animal feed. They are wet, heavy portions of the waste stream and diverting them for re-use can result in reduced garbage tipping fees and useable end products. Providing adequate space for the collection and processing of these organics is key to a successful school organics recycling program. Allow adequate space in the kitchen prep and dish washing areas for collection containers and design the cafeteria garbage stations with logical and obvious places for all recyclables, including plate scrapings. There should be adequate room on the loading dock for extra 50-90 gallon totes used for collecting organics. If at all possible, design the walk-in refrigerator to include a separate room to store food scraps. This will reduce spoilage time and allow more flexibility for collection. Finally if space permits, reserve a spot on campus to locate an on-site compost area.

How to Address a Lack of Space at Schools

A comment received with great frequency from school facility directors at existing schools is that there is not adequate space both inside and outside the building to accommodate the containment of recyclables. For instance, outside the building there may not be enough space to accommodate more than one dumpster. Inside, some schools do not have a place to store the extra totes required to collect newspaper, white office paper, and bottles and cans. School kitchens often do not have adequate space for totes to accommodate empty glass and metal food and beverage containers during food preparation.

Aside from the fact that recycling is state law, DEEP is concerned that when children are recycling at home, but not at school, it sends a mixed message. The design and construction process can establish the ease with which building occupants may recycle waste materials. A poor design will make it difficult to recycle for the life of the building. Conversely, a well executed design will make recycling more convenient than disposal. Recognition of this by the design team can provide years of efficient recycling.

Designing for Recycling

The important considerations are: determining school needs, determining design requirements, and designing space for collection and storage of recyclables. As a start, review and evaluate the current recycling program. The school’s hauler and custodial staff can assist in providing program elements which provide for the dedicated areas for recycling bins, recycling chutes, and other accommodations to promote ease of waste management. At a minimum, most schools will require one dumpster for cardboard, another for garbage, one for glass and metal food and beverage containers, and several 60 to 90 gallon totes (need to be assessed) for newspaper and white office paper.

Construction and Demolition Debris

Recycling construction and demolition debris during the construction or remodeling of the school is also a key component in the overall goal for responsible design and construction. Construction specifications should incorporate on site separation requirements for C&D debris to ensure little or no landfilling. C&D should go to permitted volume reduction facilities that further sort and process C&D debris for recycling. Fact sheets are available which list volume reduction facilities in Connecticut.

For additional technical assistance, please call the DEEP Recycling Program at 860-424-3366.


  • Blueprint for a Green School, Jayni Chase Founder, Center for Environmental Education, 1995, ISBN 0-590-49830-4
    This book covers several green building components in schools, such as water and energy conservation, waste reduction and recycling, indoor air quality, and sustainable gardening. A useful resource for projects in existing school buildings. Also provides a thorough guide to environmental education materials for teachers.
  • Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS); 877-642-CHPS
    This California collaborative was formed to facilitate the design of high performance schools. CHPS has developed a comprehensive Best Practices Manual, with separate volumes for planning, design, and criteria to be designated a CHPS school.

This information is provided as a service to those professionals commissioned with the design of school facilities. This information does not include all available references and does not constitute an endorsement by DEEP. Use of this information does not in any way lessen your responsibilities for compliance with applicable state and federal laws.

Content Last Updated February 2020