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5 Solutions For Schools to Improve Recycling Rates

how to increase school recycling rates

School students are becoming increasingly anxious about humanity’s impact on the environment, and are eager to help out in any way they can. However, just like most of us… students can’t do their part to protect our local ecosystems without a bit of help. That’s where you can come in! Whether you’re a member of your local board of education, a school principal, teacher, or even a parent of a child who’s in school… you can help them make a difference!

You may be asking, how can students protect the environment at school? Don’t worry, we’ve already written articles in the past about how to increase school recycling and 7 eco-friendly school items that are easy to recycle. But what we haven’t done is explained how to improve school recycling rates. So without further ado, CleanRiver recycling solutions has a step by step guide you can follow to improve recycling rates at your local public school, private school, post-secondary institution, or any other building where learning is the main focus:

1. Buy An Adequate Amount of Commercial Recycling Bins

The main problem a lot of schools with low recycling rates have is a lack of proper commercial recycling bins. Ideally, there should be a commercial recycling bin in each classroom and office. They don’t have to be expensive or complicated, they just have to be in commonly used spaces. Many of the schools CleanRiver provides commercial recycling bins to prefer to have smaller recycling bins in the classrooms and larger ones in communal areas like the library next to the printer, and cafeterias. Side note; we’ve just launched our new Sensi-Lid product which is great for organic waste bins that are found in most school cafeterias.

organics compost program

St. Andrew’s College Top Loading Recycling Bins

2. Educate Staff and Students on Recycling Best Practices

When implementing a new recycling program at a school, we often have a much easier time teaching students and staff how to recycle properly because of the natural classroom setting. This is an important but simple way to ensure that recycling rates stay high at your school. We recommend educating students and staff about your school’s recycling program at the beginning of every new school year, or semester. If your school doesn’t already have one, click here for our free e-book on how to start a recycling program.

3. Make Recycling Fun

Many teachers are familiar with asking themselves “how can I make this fun?” when it comes to lesson plans that are about less-than-exciting topics. As a company that has been providing recycling solutions to schools for over 30+ years, we have had our fair share of excitement. Sure we may be biased about how fun recycling is, but turning it into a game is sure to convince some students recycling is fun! In one instance, a school decided to make use of our custom recycling bin graphics to create a blue and red team. There are 5 ways to customize our CleanRiver recycling bins so you can get creative with it.

If you decide to split your classroom up into recycling teams, give them unique missions every week such as:

  • Bringing in a fully recyclable lunch
  • Collecting recyclable waste outside and weighing the bags
  • Who can recycle the highest amount of paper, plastic, glass, etc.

Turning recycling into a competition will increase classroom camaraderie and also proves to be a nice distraction from the usual day-to-day learning cycle.

improve recycling rates at school

4. Give “Eco-Friendly” Staff and Students a Role

Every difficult task can be completed with competent leadership. If you or someone you know is a strong advocate for environmentally conscious practices, then maybe they would be able to put their passion to good use. Giving students and teachers a role model to guide them is always a bonus when it comes to improving school recycling rates.

5. Ban Single-Use Plastics

This is a bit more on the extreme side of things, but if your school is really committed to recycling then it could be worthwhile. Lots of manufacturers are irresponsible with their packaging and often choose single-use plastic packaging over greener alternatives. If you’d like to joining the growing number of schools banning single-use plastics from your school in favour of recyclables, then by all means take the leap!
At the end of the (school) day, we can’t all guarantee that our waste will be fully recycled, but if you follow these steps… your school recycling program success could see a massive improvement overnight. Just ask the janitors if they notice a decrease in the amount of garbage they have to throw out!

Looking for more school recycling tips? Check out these other blogs: 

recycling program, situational renders


CleanRiver Recycling provides a variety of innovative, flexible, and customizable recycling solutions. To determine the right solution to meet your needs, use the CleanRiver product selector.

If you have additional questions that weren’t answered in this blog post please call us at 1-866-479-4038 or email solutions@cleanriver.com.

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