Try some of the ideas presented below to improve your school's recycling program. Encourage students to come up with new and different approaches.
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Decorate Recycling Containers
Create and decorate lids for recycling containers to encourage proper recycling and reduce contamination. Cut a circular hole for bottles & cans, a wide slit for paper.
Start a Green Team or Recycling Club
Hold an essay competition to select Green Team members: limit participation to 2 students per classroom to excite interest. Design special T-shirts, buttons, or hats for your recycling team. Students can count how many bins are needed, affix recycling labels and signs (see school request form), and make reminder announcements (NOT collect recyclables).
Recycling Monitors and Mentors
Monitors can make sure every room recycles properly—including the classrooms, offices, and cafeterias. At lunch, position monitors near bins to show students how milk gets dumped and where to put recyclables. Have older students explain your school recycling program to younger grades. (Monitors should not separate or collect the school’s recyclables.)
School Recycling Assembly
Present an assembly program dedicated to recycling. Show the TrashMasters! video from our NYC Teachers' RRResource Kit. Teams of students can collaborate to write and perform skits and songs, including clear instructions about what and how to recycle in your school. Or bring in outside performers who engage students in environmental education.
Incorporate Literacy and Art
Read books about recycling, the environment, sustainability, and waste prevention. Write essays, poems, or persuasive letters. Draw or paint posters or a mural to encourage recycling at school and at home. Display your students' work in the school's public areas.
Math & Science Applications
Conduct waste audits of each classroom and office. Weigh and measure paper recycling, then graph recycling rates. Research the life cycle and environmental benefits of trees. Examine the properties and decomposition rates of recyclable materials.
Be aware that weighing or measuring the amount of recyclables produced by each class will encourage wasteful practices of using more paper than necessary. It is best to reduce paper use (see waste less at school) and measure contamination rates, rather than compare how much paper is in the recycling bin. Post weekly results for each room for all to see. Reward model recyclers; retrain the rest.
Bring the Message Home
NYC residents recycle the same materials as schools. Order promotional materials on recycling and waste prevention, and distribute to parents via backpack mail. Suggest families maintain their children's good recycling habits at home.
Help Other Schools Recycle
Expand your recycling successes by mentoring another school that shares your campus or neighborhood.
Involve NYC's Environmental Network
Contact environmental organizations in NYC to find out about their educational opportunities. Go on a local field trip. Take advantage of the many other local, state, and national environmental education resources.
Tell the World
Build community awareness by promoting your school's sustainability activities through the school newsletter, website, and the local media. Make sure the Parents Association and other organizations that use your school building after school and weekends know what and how to recycle.
Enter the Golden Apple Awards
TrashMasters! Super Recyclers rewards schools in NYC with cash prizes for implementing exemplary recycling programs in compliance with NYC regulations. Show us your school's recycling program!
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