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Rightsizing Your Bins


After completing a waste audit, learners and teachers at Nea Community Learning Center set out to redesign their school's recycling system. They hoped to divert as much waste as possible away from the landfill to help teach lessons of sustainability and stewardship.

Right Sized BinsRight Sized BinsIn the audit, Nea learned that most of the material generated on campus could be recycled or composted. With this in mind, teachers Nga Nguyen and Matt Nolan set up demonstration stations in their classrooms with bins sized proportionally to the waste stream. "I noticed that the amount of garbage produced is actually very small," explained Nga Nguyen, "So why do we offer a gigantic trash can? It's like an invitation to throw everything away. So, I set up a system with a very small trash can for items headed to the landfill. I used larger boxes for paper and cans and bottles. We want to maximize opportunities to do the right thing." 

Eventually this test system grew into a comprehensive waste diversion program on campus which includes food scrap diversion to composting, with an emphasis on packing waste free lunches, recycling boxes paired with small trash cans throughout campus, and regular classroom discussions about environmental responsibility and stewardship."

As the new system rolled out, Nguyen and learners in his Green Awareness program, realized that the school could actually remove a total of five garbage cans from some hallways and common areas of campus. "We talked to the custodian, and he agreed," said Nguyen. "We had made it too easy to throw things away. Now that we made it easier to recycle, we don't need so many trash cans."