When students were invited to help make their school “greener,” they began to pay attention to areas of waste and opportunities for recycling throughout the facility. They did research online and interviewed custodians to learn more about the types and volumes of materials being discarded. Papers and cans in the school waste stream could readily be recycled, and students felt they could address this concern effectively through a service-learning project.
While students sought to gather more precise data on the weight and volume of trash generated, they had no access to an industrial scale. This information would have been useful in making the case for recycling and in evaluating the project’s success, but the students chose to proceed with less precise data.
Their proposed solution, gathering paper and cans from containers throughout the school, depended on educating the school community about separating those materials into the designated containers. Students distributed marked recycling bins (provided by the city and by a KIDS Consortium Green Schools grant) and created mini-posters for each classroom and office indicating what to place in each bin. They made morning announcements to the whole school community to encourage participation in the new recycling effort.
Students determined when a local recycling firm (Predel), could collect papers each week. They took rolling garbage cans through the school, emptying all the bins. They gathered returnable cans and bottles and recruited parent volunteers to help take them to a redemption center.
Students who were not always engaged in classroom activities excelled in the collection of recyclables by demonstrating responsibility and a willingness to commitment.
It was estimated that the school was generating 30-40 percent less trash. Students were pleased with these results and are inspired to extend their recycling initiative next year. They celebrated their achievements by going on a class field trip to the Bronx Zoo, funded in part by the many bottles they had recycled.