California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

School District Diversion Project Overview

CalRecycle School District Diversion Project was initiated in June 2000 and completed in November 2001. The project phases are described below:

Project Initiation

The project was initiated, in part, in response to Public Resources Code sections 42620-42622 that requires CalRecycle to implement a waste reduction program for school districts. This includes a survey of California school districts regarding level of program implementation, the development of a model waste reduction program, training and ongoing assistance, and information on programs for other states and institutions. This project was also developed to assist local jurisdictions in meeting the solid waste diversion goals by addressing the nonresidential sector of their waste stream, specifically institutional settings such as school districts.

Project Objectives

In addition to satisfying the enabling legislation, this project was driven by three principle objectives:

  1. Develop a model methodology by which school districts can achieve maximum waste reduction through waste prevention, reuse, composting, and recycling.
  2. Identify factors and benefits essential to institutionalizing waste reduction programs in school districts.
  3. Strengthen the relationships and support provided to school districts by local jurisdictions and CalRecycle.

Project Team

The first step of the project was to form a project team comprised of CalRecycle Office of Local Assistance (OLA) and consultant staff. The project team also called upon the knowledge and experience of CalRecycle staff from other program areas as well as staff from other related state agencies (for example, Department of Conservation, Department of Education, Department of Toxic Substances Control, etc.) to form a resource committee. Throughout the project, the resource committee provided valuable assistance in identifying school-related program information. 

Project Methodology

To accomplish the project objectives, the project team, in cooperation with school districts, local jurisdictions, and waste management industry representatives, field-tested a model waste assessment methodology at six pilot school districts to identify, document, and evaluate their current waste management practices and to develop cost-effective strategies that the school districts could implement to reduce their solid waste generation and associated disposal costs.

In addition to testing and refining the model waste assessment methodology, the project team also used the pilot process to learn more about the following items:

  • Types of waste reduction programs in which school districts typically participate.
  • Types of information and/or assistance that school districts need to implement additional programs.
  • Best methods for providing this support to school districts.

Waste Assessments

The project team conducted waste assessments at six pilot school districts:

  • Visalia Unified School District, Visalia, Tulare County.
  • Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach, Los Angeles County.
  • Santee School District, Santee, San Diego County.
  • Barstow Unified School District, Barstow, San Bernardino County.
  • Ravenswood City Elementary School District, East Palo Alto, San Mateo County.
  • Placer Union High School District, Auburn, Placer County.

The project team performed the waste assessments in collaboration with the local jurisdiction recycling coordinator, and, in four of the six districts, the contract waste hauler. The waste assessments consisted of two parts—interviews and site visits at the district facilities. The interviews were conducted with superintendents, chief business officials and managers from each school district department (for example., business services, transportation, purchasing, food services, etc.). The interviews were followed by site visits to the school district facilities, including food preparation areas, cafeterias, food and supply warehouses, maintenance and custodial service areas, transportation facilities, print shops, and administrative areas. Site visits to the offices and grounds of each type of school—high, middle, and elementary—were also conducted.

The purpose of the interviews and site visits was to identify, document, and evaluate each component of the pilot school districts’ waste management systems. The visits were also intended to develop cost-effective recommendations for program improvement (that is, identifying additional opportunities to incorporate waste prevention, reuse, recycling, environmentally preferable procurement practices, composting, and "green building" design into the districts’ business systems).

The project team prepared waste assessment reports for each of the pilot school districts to: 

  • Explain the purpose of the waste assessment.
  • Describe the waste assessment methodology.
  • Document the pilot school district’s existing waste management system.
  • Provide estimated waste characterization data.
  • Identify opportunities for waste reduction.
  • Recommend the adoption of districtwide waste reduction policies and operating procedures.
  • Recommend implementation of an initial set of waste reduction strategies.
  • Describe other opportunities for implementation as time and resources permit.
  • Provide contact information regarding local and state resources.

A draft copy of the waste assessment report was reviewed by each pilot school district and a final report was submitted to each district superintendent for implementation consideration. The project team also conducted a follow-up meeting with each pilot school district and its local jurisdiction recycling coordinator to review the report recommendations and to discuss next steps regarding the implementation of the proposed waste reduction strategies. A number of the pilot school districts have already implemented or are working on implementing some of the report recommendations. OLA staff also continue to provide technical assistance to each pilot school district and its local jurisdiction recycling coordinator(s) in their efforts to implement the recommended waste reduction programs.

If you would like information on conducting a waste assessment for your school district, please contact your regional representative in the CalRecycle Office of Local Assistance.

Next Steps

Using what was learned from the pilot school districts, the project team developed a plan to provide more tailored assistance and support to school districts regarding waste reduction. The components of the plan include:

  • A Web-based Resource Guide for school districts. This Resource Guide was developed to provide information, tools, and other resources regarding the implementation of districtwide waste reduction programs.
  • A training plan to provide CalRecycle staff (staff from OLA, the Office of Integrated Education, and the Resource Committee) with the information tools and other resources necessary to provide ongoing informational and technical assistance to jurisdictions and school districts regarding districtwide waste reduction program implementation.  The training program will also include regional training workshops for local jurisdictions and school districts to facilitate the development of strong working relationships to address solid waste management and other environmental issues. These workshops will highlight the model waste assessment methodology, tools, and other resources developed to facilitate the implementation of districtwide waste reduction programs.
  • An outreach program that targets school district decision-makers (for example, school board members, superintendents, administrators) through their professional associations and organizations to encourage the adoption and implementation of districtwide waste reduction and "green" purchasing policies and the corresponding administrative procedures.

Please see the Board's online publication guide to download and obtain more information on the  School District Diversion Project Final Report. If you have any questions about this project or the report, please contact the staff listed below.

School Waste Reduction Home

Last updated: April 1, 2002
School Waste Reduction
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