Recycling & Waste Reduction Programs

Being able to throw something away and never see it again makes it easy to ignore the impact we are having. The average person creates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year. It’s never too soon to turn things around! Think about this: Recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to run a 60-watt bulb for 20 hours, a laptop for 4 hours, or a TV for two hours. It takes a glass bottle approximately one million years to break down in a landfill. The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will operate a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, and for every ton of recycled glass turned into new products, 315 kilograms of extra carbon dioxide that would have been released during the creation of new glass are saved! Recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees, 7000 gallons of water and enough energy to power the average American home for six months – plus it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent. If every American recycled one newspaper a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year!

Ton for ton, recycling reduces more pollution, saves more energy and reduces Greenhouse Gas emissions more than any other solid waste management option. When schools recycle, they help to reduce fossil fuel usage, conserve resources, create local jobs and even generate extra funds for their school. Students who participate in recycling now will have more of an incentive to carry on this “habit” as adults. Learn more about recycling programs and events below, and remember: Share your efforts with the whole school, parents and the community to encourage more people to reduce, reuse & recycle!

Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

Before You Start

Form an Action Team

Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Video (9mins)

Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Companion Guide

Review: Getting Started - Which Can Do I Put This In?

Design and Preparation

Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

Preliminary Recycling & Waste Management Questions to Consider

Conduct a Consumption & Waste Audit

Green Schools Implementation Workbook: Solid Waste Management Policy

View a Model Program: Montgomery Co. School Energy & Recycling Team (SERT)


Sample Waste Reduction Action Plan Grades K-5

Blank Waste Reduction Action Plan Grades K-5

Sample Waste Reduction Action Plan Grades 6-12

Blank Waste Reduction Action Plan Grades 6-12

  • Tips to Start a Recycling Program (Green Education Foundation)
  • Recycling Makes Sen$e Guide: Start or Expand a Recycling Program
  • Set up a Rural School Recycling Program
  • Use the EPA Waste Reduction Model Calculator
  • Host An America Recycles Day Event: November 15
  • Register to Compete in a Recycle-Bowl
  • Track & Compare Disposable vs. Reusable Cafeteria Ware (trays,etc)
  • Adopt a School Paper Use Reduction Policy
  • Earth 911: How to Recycle Anything (Click Recycle Guide)
  • Crayola Color Cycle: Recycle Markers
  • Extra Credit: Participate in the Trash on Your Back Challenge
  • Look into Incentive Programs:

  • Start an Electronic Recycling Program:

  • Using Your Project

    EPA Planet Protectors Activities for Kids: Waste Reduction & Recycling

    Recycle Rally: K-12 Incentives, Posters, Lessons, Tracker & More

    ReCommunity: Recycling Lesson Plans, Videos & Resources

    Crayola ColorCycle Lesson Plans

    Design a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Science Fair Project

    RecycleBowl Resources

    Recycling Journey: See Recycled Materials Become New Products

    Participate in the Waste Reduction Challenge

    Join EPA's WasteWise Program

    Eco-School Consumption & Waste Pathway Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    EPA Lesson Plans on Waste

    Waste Reduction Curriculum & Activities (Green Education Foundation)

    Project Leaning Tree Solid Waste Curriculum

    (K-12) Books on Waste Reduction & Recycling (Green Education Foundation)

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Teachers: Start a Planet Protectors Club (EPA)

    10-in-the-Bin Poster

    Recycling Poster (Green Education Foundation)

    ReCommunity: Infographic Recycling Posters

    Create Signs About Recycling & Waste Reduction

    Make Signs & Host a Celebration

    Tips to Send Home: Use Less Plastic

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    NorthEast Recycling Council
    Earth 911: How to Recycle Anything (Click Recycle Guide)
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)