California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

 

School Waste Reduction

Program News...
  • The California Recycling Challenge is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for K-12 school recycling programs. Plus, there is $12,000 in cash awards for the winning schools. Over a one month period, schools report recycling and trash data which are ranked according to the greatest amount of recycling on a per capita basis. The 2015 competition is scheduled to run from March 1st through March 31st, 2015! Registration is now open! Take the Challenge!

Whether you are a school district administrator concerned about increases in solid waste disposal costs, a recycling-conscious teacher or student, or a city/county recycling coordinator working with your local school district, setting up or improving an existing school waste reduction program can benefit everyone involved. Furthermore, in many cases, school recycling is now a state requirement.

California Law Regarding Mandatory Recycling

Pursuant to Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011 (Chesbro, AB 341), starting July 1, 2012, businesses and public entities, including schools and school districts that generate four cubic yards or more of waste per week and multifamily units of five or more will be required to recycle, if they are not already doing so. The purpose of this new law is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting commercial solid waste to recycling efforts and expand opportunities for additional recycling services and recycling manufacturing facilities in California.

CalRecycle has provided the following information about the law and offers resources to help schools and school districts to meet the recycling requirements.

Who Must Comply

  • Businesses and public entities, including schools and school districts that generate four or more cubic yards of solid waste per week. Regardless of solid waste service level, all multifamily units of five or more must also comply.

How to Comply

Schools and other public entities can take one or any combination of the following actions in order to reuse, recycle, compost or otherwise divert solid waste from disposal:

  • Self-haul.
  • Subscribe to a hauler(s).
  • Arrange for pick-up of recyclables.
  • Subscribe to a recycling service that may include mixed waste processing that yields diversion results comparable to source separation.

Recycling Resources

Other Related School Recycling & Sustainability Laws

Public Resources Code, sections 42620-42622 requires CalRecycle to provide assistance to school districts in establishing and implementing source reduction and recycling programs. This assistance includes a survey of school districts on their level of program implementation, development of a model waste reduction program, training and ongoing technical and informational assistance, and information on programs for other states and institutions.

In September 2001, Gov. Gray Davis also signed into law Senate Bill 373 (Torlakson, Chapter 373, Statutes of 2001), which puts in place many more mandates for CalRecycle to fulfill. These mandates help CalRecycle staff further our mission of assisting schools by establishing an integrated systems model where academics, administration, and facilities work collaboratively to incorporate resource conservation and sustainability into their organizational philosophy, planning, and implementation.

Additionally, California Education Code, sections 32370-32376, encourages each school district to establish and maintain a paper recycling program in all classrooms, administrative offices, and other areas owned or leased by the school district. These sections also encourage school districts to:

  • Purchase recycled paper.
  • Purchase the paper with the highest percentage of postconsumer waste.
  • Revise procurement specifications to eliminate discrimination against recycled paper and to give preference to the purchase of recycled paper.
  • Eliminate the purchase of paper and paper products, which are deemed potential contaminants of the educational agency's paper recycling program.

Why is waste reduction planning essential for school districts?

California school districts dispose of large amounts of waste (approximately 763,817 tons per year) [1]. These wastes represent a significant loss of natural resources and school district funds, as well as a potential threat to student/staff health and the environment. To be responsible stewards of environmental quality, school districts should review processes and operations, and even curriculum choices. They should evaluate the economic, educational, and environmental benefits of implementing an effective waste reduction program.

Incorporating waste reduction as part of the school district's overall way of doing business can provide a number of important benefits:

  • Reduced disposal costs.
  • Improved worker safety.
  • Reduced long-term liability.
  • Increased efficiency of school operations.
  • Decreased associated purchasing costs.

School district waste reduction programs also foster student achievement by transforming the school environment into a laboratory for learning and providing numerous opportunities for investigation through environment-based education.

The California Integrated Waste Management Act requires that all California cities and counties reduce solid waste disposal by 50 percent. School districts can play a critical role in a city or county's ability to realize this goal. As a result, a school district's host city or county is a natural partner in the evaluation of the existing waste management infrastructure and the development of a comprehensive district wide waste reduction program.

These pages provide information, tools, and other resources to support such partnerships and to facilitate the implementation of successful school district waste reduction programs.

Starting a waste reduction program in your school district is easy!

Many school districts have been successful in improving their economic and environmental performance through the implementation of waste reduction initiatives. Throughout this site, you will have the opportunity to learn about successful waste prevention, composting, and recycling programs in schools throughout California. From rural programs that collect cafeteria waste for vermicomposting, to urban districts that take advantage of cooperative recycled product purchasing opportunities, this site contains information from various districts that have developed active, successful programs to reduce waste and save money!

Additionally, this site provides information on programs that can be implemented to reduce the solid waste generated in all areas of a school district (e.g., administration, maintenance and operations, purchasing, food service, classrooms, etc.) that, when properly implemented, create hands-on learning experiences for students and result in districtwide waste reduction! This site also offers:

  • Information regarding the environmental, economic, and educational benefits of implementing waste reduction programs.
  • School waste composition information.
  • Results from CalRecycle's school district survey regarding waste reduction program implementation.
  • Information from other states that have instituted waste reduction programs for their school waste stream.
  • And more!

Need some help getting started?

For questions or to request assistance in setting up a districtwide waste reduction program, please contact your CalRecycle regional local assistance representative.

Publications

Publications to promote school district waste reduction programs are available.

Footnote

  1. Statewide Waste Characterization Study: Results and Final Report, page 19.
Last updated: December 17, 2014
School Waste Reduction http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/ReduceWaste/Schools/
Contact: (916) 341-6199 or LAMD@CalRecycle.ca.gov