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School Waste Reduction Tips

June 30, 2020
By: Jennifer Milholen, KHF Waste Reduction Coordinator

There is no doubt that the 2020-2021 school year will see change and adaptation on school campuses. While we work to keep everyone safe and learning, we also have the opportunity to imagine new systems, policies, and initiatives around waste reduction, especially plastic. To honor Plastic Free July, we want to focus on the first, and most important, “R” of the 3R’s: REDUCE. Reducing is even more important than Reusing or Recycling, because it’s what helps us avoid making any waste at all. You don’t have to manage and process waste that you never created in the first place! There are a number of ways that your school and school community can REDUCE waste on-campus through policy and activities based learning. Below are some examples of where to start. Brainstorm your own new policies, and tell us what your ideas are to teach your students and staff about the first “R!”

School Waste Reduction Tips:

  • Cleaning Supplies - Work with facilities staff to identify the products they purchase regularly and determine if similar products are available with less packaging or available in bulk.
  • Deliveries - If working with a distributor or delivery company to service your school, inquire if they have the option to deliver in reusable containers that can be returned and reused.
  • Landscaping - Instead of buying plastic-bagged fertilizers, source compost and soil amendments from local composting businesses in bulk - package free!
  • School Events - Zero Waste or Plastic-free school policies for events (no plastic packaging or bottles for items used. Focus on Reusables and packaging-free foods).
  • Plastic Bottles - Develop a policy to avoid the purchase of beverages that come in plastic bottles, and encourage parents to not send their children to school with any plastic bottles.
  • School Cafeteria Serveware - a majority of school waste occurs in the cafeteria.Talk to your cafeteria manager and the DOE School Food Service Branch to determine if your school is a good candidate for installing a warewashing machine and switching all disposable trays, utensils, and cups to reusables that can be sanitized on-site. Your school may even be able to pilot a milk dispenser program and reduce all of that waste from milk cartons!
  • Food Scraps  - Find out if your school can develop a food scrap separation program and work with local piggeries and farmers to pick up your school’s food scraps, greatly reducing the stinky and bulky trash! If you have an energized group of teachers and community members at your school, consider applying for DOE support to begin a campus composting program. Click here to learn more about the program and apply.
  • Waste-Free Home Lunches - For students bringing lunch from home, encourage a waste-free lunch initiative - no plastic packaging and reusable containers. Distribute the KHF Healthy & Waste-Free Lunches Resource for guidance.

For more ideas about reducing school waste through the other two “Rs” REUSE & RECYCLE, check out these helpful resources from the Green Schools National Network and the Green Schools Initiative. For questions on the above ideas or to learn more about Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation’s 3Rs School Recycling Program, contact us at [email protected].