StopWaste at School


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Here is the text of our recently submitted recycling grant application:

Our project's purpose is to provide a student-driven education campaign on our school site about the school's waste reduction systems. We have established a school site waste reduction team (made up of both students and teachers). Our teacher team members engage their students in service-learning through curriculum-based projects. Through the campus outreach program, students develop their voice and leadership skills. One of our aims is to reduce recyclables from needlessly being thrown into the waste stream while increasing campus beautification.

Our target audience is our school community, made up of both students and staff who throw away too many recyclables. According to an anonymous student survey that we conducted last month, 75.2% report they recycle at home, yet only 63.2% recycle at school. Only 52.6% of our students say they placed their last plastic bottle in a recycling bin. The "location of the recycling bin is the biggest influence on why [students] would or would not recycle at school" according to 49.6% of the student's responses. We are optimistic that students will recycle more when given the opportunity.

We are trying to raise awareness and opportunity on campus so that recycling is instinctive. While we have increased classroom participation in recycling, once students and staff are outside the classroom, habits of recycling decrease. Many students (40.6%) reported that the "most important thing [they believe our] school needs in order to have a more affective recycling program" is "more clearly labeled bins in classrooms or outside." We will strategically place these outside near trash bins to encourage a "habit of mind."

Ultimately, we feel we will be most successful when we can separate recycling bins for paper, plastic, glass, and cans. We are also working to build a partnership with the City of Fremont and Allied Waste so that as our recycling habits and rates change, so will our scheduled pick-ups.

As of last year, we recycled 30% of our total tonnage.

We know we can be better than this. High schools with similar communities and sizes in our district recycled twice as much as we did.

This leaves us with tremendous room for growth. One of the reasons students and staff do not recycle as much as they could is because they do not know where to throw out their beverage containers. If there are more containers, we will use them!

We educated staff during in-service days, staff meetings, and placed bulletin announcements as needed. We will continue to do more of this as our project grows. We are in contact with our local media and will have ongoing coverage of waste reduction through our school newspaper, radio, and local tri-city newspaper. Staff and students are now actively participating in the recycling program. Our student groups have already designed brightly colored t-shirts and will soon be wearing them to help further promote this cause on campus.

Irvington High School has a contract with Allied Waste and the Fremont Transfer Station, which collect both recyclables and nonrecyclables twice a week. The Service Learning Waste Reduction Project (SLWRP) team on campus separates those recyclables with CRV from those without and use it to fund other recycling endeavors on campus. The SLWRP team is comprised of the Youth Advisory Board, Environmental Club, environmental advisories, and key teachers on campus. The students have organized themselves to pick up recycling bins twice a week from classrooms and select outdoor areas where the limited bins we do have are located.

Our 2 white bins which are 3 yard containers are picked up twice a week and are nearly full each time (these containers primarily consist of cardboard and other papers) - this is based upon the recycling program we currently have in place for our classrooms where paper is a large consumable item. We also separate out six 50-gallon bags worth of bottles and cans from these classrooms on a weekly basis. Our school runs 2 semesters at 18 weeks each. Our recycling potential outside of the classroom around the cafeteria, in the courtyard, and in the hallways is hugely untapped for recycling which is why we are contacting you.

Since our school district makes it time and cost prohibitive for our custodians to recycle, we as teachers and students realize that a successful program relies upon a sustainable program based upon student and staff buy-in. We are building recycling into our [interdisciplinary] freshmen benchmark environmental change project, which will increase student participation, student habits, and campus culture on recycling at large. The number of clubs that have a service-learning component at our school is increasing as is their participation in the recycling program we currently have in place. Our key to a sustainable program at our campus is to have a student-driven, (SLWRP) teacher-led program, which we are well onto our way to achieving.

The key to a successful program is accessibility. Our goal is to have a 1:1 trash bin to recycling bin ratio at our school site, thus giving students the ability to make the correct decision to lessen their footprint. We are working to align our waste reduction practices with the Alameda County initiative to reduce waste by 40% by 2010. In the past, our biggest challenge was not having adequate resources to a sustainable recycling program, which contributed to a campus culture of inconsistent recycling. Now that we have begun implementing a sustainable program with increased resources, we have instituted a better-defined process for recycling. We have clear goals for next steps: with the money we make from recycling beverage containers, we plan on implementing a green bin program (composting) for our new cafeteria. This will especially impact our waste since we are going to a closed campus next year.

Submitted by: Clint Johns