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Tips on Waste Reduction & Reuse for Schools

Source Reduction and Reuse
Reducing the Waste Stream
Incorporating Reuse Into Special Projects or Activities at School

Source Reduction and Reuse

Although recycling is an important part of any waste management strategy, the greatest environmental benefits are achieved through source reduction and reuse. Consider a simple example; We can reduce trash disposal and save raw materials if we collect plastic grocery bags for recycling and incorporate them into a new product such as plastic lumber. However, a better option would be to take no bag at all, as no natural resources or energy are used to first produce, then collect and reprocess disposable bags. Using a reusable canvas or string bag would have similar environmental benefits as the bag would could replace thousands of disposable bags over its useful life. Any organization reviewing their waste management strategy should first consider ways to reduce waste and incorporate reusable products to achieve the maximum benefit to the environment.

Reducing the Waste Stream

We hope that you will consider some of the following suggestions to reduce the waste stream generated by your school. Your efforts may provide the additional benefit of saving money as well. Remember, even small changes can make a big difference!

  1. Make double-sided copies whenever possible. This can dramatically reduce your paper usage.

  2. Instead of making individual copies for everyone, use a routing slip when circulating information to staff, or post notices on a bulletin board.

  3. Use reusable envelopes for interoffice mail.

  4. If applicable, use electronic mail instead of making hard copies of all communications.

  5. Request the removal of your name from junk mail lists by writing to the Direct Mail Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9008.

  6. If possible, limit the number of subscriptions to periodicals and have classrooms share them. This will reduce both trash and subscription costs.

  7. Arrange to have a vendor collect and recharge empty laser printer toner cartridges. Such cartridges can be recharged several times, saving money and reducing waste generation.

  8. Encourage employees and students to reuse paper clips, rubber bands and brass fasteners. These should be removed before recycling white office paper anyway.

  9. Use scrap paper for messages. If you have access to a wax binder, you can make your own scrap pads.

  10. Require suppliers who deliver products on pallets or in metal drums to take them back.

  11. Have you cafeteria switch to reusable utensils and crockery instead of throwaways whenever possible. Investigate the possibility of switching to refillable containers for milk and juice.

  12. Encourage students who bring their lunch to use a reusable lunch box and thermos instead of brown paper bags and disposable drink containers.

  13. Set up vermicomposting bins in individual classrooms as part of your science program.

  14. Replace single-strike film typewriter ribbons with ink impregnated nylon multi strike ribbons. The multi strike ribbons last 6-10 times as long as the single strike variety. Do the same for printers that can utilize multi strike ribbons.

  15. Replace ball-point or felt tip pens with ones that take refills.

  16. Do not purchase envelopes with cellophane windows or self-adhering note pads. If the windows are necessary, purchase the ones which have no covering over the window.

  17. Purchase reusable and washable cleaning cloths, aprons, tablecloths, etc., rather than single-use disposable products.

  18. Buy institutional sizes of cleaning supplies, food products, beverages, etc. and repackage into smaller, reusable dispensers.

Incorporating Reuse into Special Projects or Activities at School

You may also want to incorporate reuse into special projects or activities at the school. A few examples of this type of project are listed below.

  1. Hold a "SWAP DAY". Have student bring in items from home to swap with other children. (Of course parental permission will be needed.) You may want to limit the types of items that can be brought in to items such as books or small toys to facilitate "even" trading. This can be made part of history lesson in the development of trade and monetary systems.

  2. Collect used greeting cards for St. Jude's Ranch for Children. The children at St. Judes trim the old cards and paste them onto new backs. They then sell the cards as a fund raiser for the organization. Such a project helps to teach the children business skills, as well as raising money for a children's charity. Cards can be sent to: The Card Project, St. Jude's Ranch for Children, 100 St. Judes Street, Boulder City, NV, 89005.

  3. Collect other reusables such as clothing for local charities.

  4. Maintain a free listing service of used musical instruments and sporting equipment in your school newsletter. Parents will appreciate this effort! It may encourage some children to try an activity that their family might not be able to otherwise afford.

  5. Incorporate the use of reusables into your art program. Host a sculpture contest in which the children make their creations from items that would have been recycled or thrown away. This can be fun even without the added incentive of a contest.

  6. Incorporate the use of reusables into your science program by hosting an inventors fair. Have the children design some machine or other contraption from found items. You will be amazed at what the children come up with!

  7. Establish a bird feeding/observation area with feeders made from containers that have already been used once for another purpose such as milk jugs, paper milk cartons, soda bottles, etc. Establish a site where these feeders can stay for an extended period of time. Allow the children some observation time to record which birds frequent the different feeders.

For more information, call or write:

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Recycling Program
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
Phone: (860) 424-3366

Content Last Updated February 2020