Minimising waste in schools can be a great way for children and young people to connect with the environment and develop a culture of environmental responsibility.
“Today’s environmentally savvy children are tomorrow’s environmentally responsible adults.”
Marty Hoffart, Co-Founder of Environmental Education for Resource Sustainability Trust*
*Independent source not associated or affiliated with Hamilton City Council
Below you’ll find some pointers on implementing waste education in schools, plus some simple ideas. Remember though, it’s your waste minimisation journey, so make small changes that you are comfortable with, based on where you’re at.
There are also many organisations that provide excellent zero waste education, such as:
Further resources and helpful websites can be found at the bottom of this page.
Hamilton City Council is also continuing to support schools in rolling out waste minimisation education as part of the 2018-2024 Waste Management and Minimisation Plan and the Waste Minimisation Fund. Watch this space!
Getting everyone on board in the beginning will be helpful. You might need parents and trustees supporting and encouraging your efforts; caretakers ensuring recycling and rubbish bins are not contaminated and are ready for collection; and teachers setting lessons and learnings. Having everyone involved from the get-go is a good idea.
Think about setting up a focus group of enthusiastic students and identify the waste minimisation goals and targets you want set (see below). Students can take turns to be the allocated waste minimisation ‘monitor’ in each classroom, so everyone gets a chance to participate.
It’s useful to develop a waste minimisation policy or vision to keep everyone on track, such as:
‘Our school commits to reduce waste wherever possible; to reuse all resources; and to recycle everything else. Sending waste to landfill will be our very last resort.’
Developing a vision and/or goals is a real opportunity to involve students who can research the topic of waste minimisation and start thinking about what it means to them and what changes they would like to see.
Setting specific commitments or measurable targets are a great way to help achieve this vision. These might be best informed by a school waste audit (see below). Here are some examples of commitments:
A ‘waste audit’ involves looking at and documenting rubbish and recycling. It’s an effective way to see the types and amounts of waste you produce, and what alternatives you can use to reduce this.
To get a good understanding of waste minimisation and the waste hierarchy before getting started, check out the waste minimisation page.
Your school waste audit could include:
This will make what you’re trying to achieve very clear and will encourage everyone to be on board.
Any change counts. You can do follow-on audits later on too, to find out how you’re doing on your waste minimisation journey and identify more items for reuse and recycling.
Referring to your vision and goals, write a step-by-step plan that will help you get there. The more detailed and creative, the better. Remember to include milestones, too, so that you have something to work towards.
For example, if one of your goals was ’to reuse all scrap paper before recycling it’, you might need the following in your action plan:
If another goal was to start a worm farm, your action plan might be:
Remember to check-in on your plan, vision and goals. This will help to determine whether what you’re doing is working to minimise waste. Ask everyone who has been involved – students, staff, caretakers, parents – for their opinion and/or ideas for improvement.
This is a really important step. Celebrate successes – no matter how big or small – and be sure to communicate them to everyone involved. This praise will inspire students to keep up the hard work and continue minimising waste.
Hamilton City Council's Waste Minimisation Fund receives $50,000 a year from the National Waste Levy administered by the Government. This money is allocated each year to groups and organisations in the Hamilton City area that are operating projects achieving and/or promoting waste minimisation.
Find out more about the fund here.
Below are resources that have helped to inform this page on waste minimisation at schools, and some links to companies and organisations that can help you on your journey.