In 2010, John Muir Middle School won grants totaling nearly $15,000 to purchase recycling bins and stations for their campus serving over 1,000 students. The grant would allow the campus to replace the existing system of cardboard boxes for paper in place in only a handful of classrooms. Teacher Alicia Skuce envisioned a system with uniform rubberized/plastic bins common in many public places: "I wanted students to have access to recycling systems that looked similar to those they see in other public spaces. From our waste audit data, students learned we could capture lots more paper, bottles and cans, but we needed the tools to get the job done."
Almost immediately Skuce ran into challenges. She learned from a veteran teacher on campus that the school used to have exactly the types of bins she planned to purchase with the grant, however, the fire marshal ordered the school to remove the bins over concerns about combustible materials (such as paper) catching fire, melting the plastic bins and spreading to a wider conflagration. Indeed, all trash cans on campus are metal- in accordance with the fire marshal's orders.
Back to square one, Skuce worked with the purchasing department from her district to find a vendor of metal recycling containers. In her search, she was concerned about color coding bins to help students know where to put paper and where to place bottles and cans. She worked to find bin lids with different shaped openings to help students recognize where to put bottles and cans, and where to put paper. The selected bins have a distinctive light blue color and are paired with trash cans across the campus to ensure that students have easy access to recycling.
"From the change in plans, to challenges working with vendors, it took nearly a year from when we won the grant to the arrival of the bins on campus," explains Skuce, "but it was worth the effort- our school looks more professional now and we are seeing higher diversion."