Recycle right: What schools need to know

Remind students, teachers, and other staff members to recycle right. Avoid “wish-cycling” — placing materials in a recycling bin because you hope they can be recycled! Only place accepted items in recycling bins. A recycling bin contaminated with unacceptable materials such as liquids and food can lead to an entire truckload of recyclable items being sent to a landfill.

  • Keep recycling! Recycling is the right thing to do because it saves energy and natural resources, and decreases greenhouses gas emissions that lead to climate change.
  • Emphasize preventing waste in the first place. Limit paper use, and print and write on both sides of the paper. Use durable trays, utensils, and water bottles which can be washed and used again. Reduce food waste by using one or more of these strategies: remind students to take only what they will eat and to eat what they take; encourage families to pack nutritious foods their students will eat; schedule recess before lunch in elementary schools; and, with permission from your district, set up share tables or donate packaged, unopened foods.
  • Reduce contamination such as foods, liquids, and non-recyclable items in Lake-Washington-HS-Trash on Tarprecycling bins. The cleaner the recyclable material, the more marketable it is. Students and staff members can help by following these simple guidelines.
    • No liquids in recycling bins. Place only EMPTY beverage containers (milk cartons, plastic bottles, aluminum cans) in recycling bins. Drink all the liquid in a container, or pour out leftover liquids into a “leftover liquids” container in the cafeteria or into a sink. (Remember to “pour low, pour slow” to avoid splashing.)
    • No food in recycling bins. Place only empty recyclable food containers in recycling bins. Here’s what to do with these food-contaminated items:
      • Cheese and grease on pizza boxes means those boxes should be placed in a compost bin – or in a garbage bin in schools that do not provide collection of compostable materials.
      • Yogurt left in a yogurt container means that the yogurt container should be placed in a garbage bin. If teachers rinse out empty yogurt containers in a staff breakroom, they can be placed in a recycling bin. But in school cafeterias where students typically do not eat all the yogurt and cannot rinse out containers, those containers should be placed in garbage bins.Mount-Si-HS-Waste Audit
  • Only place accepted recyclable materials in recycling bins. Check the recycling signs that should be on or above recycling bins. If your school does not have recycling signs, ask your King County Green Schools Program representative for signs.
  •  When in doubt, find out. Ask the King County Green Schools Program for help!

 If you have questions or need assistance educating your school community about what can be recycled, contact your King County Green Schools Program representative. If your school is not yet participating, sign up for assistance!