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Managing waste in your school

The Waste Education Queensland Managing waste in your school guide aims to assist teachers, educators, administration and support staff and parents to develop a waste management program for their school that reduces the impact of waste on the school, community, environment and economy and reduces the cost of managing your school’s waste.

It provides information about how to:

  • establish a waste management committee: The team will need to monitor waste production and disposal, report on progress and have discussions about what worked and what didn’t, after each milestone. The waste management committee should work together to identify milestones, deadlines, key messages, curriculum-aligned content and key achievements for the program.
  • research your local context: Local councils across Australia are responsible for the safe, legal and efficient collection of waste in their area. Councils differ in size, budget, geography and local issues and so differ in the types of infrastructure they have for managing waste. Recycling facilities are not available in many Queensland communities. Contact your local council waste division to learn how different waste materials are managed and how your local council can support your school. In some locations, recycling companies and local councils provide school education programs on waste management that will give you up-to-date, local information and support for implementing your program.
  • assess your waste footprint using waste audits: Before designing a waste management program, it is important to assess how much waste your school is currently producing. Gathering this data allows schools to determine baseline measurements, set goals and targets and effectively measure success. There are two ways to collect information about school waste production: establishing the volumes of waste leaving the school and conducting a bin audit to identify the types of materials in the waste stream.
  • design and implement a waste management program that separates the waste streams: Separating waste materials into general, recyclable, organic, and any other recoverable waste streams is an important sustainable waste management practice. It provides clear visual evidence of the valuable materials discarded daily and helps to inform future reduction goals. Separate these materials at the source or point of disposal.
    Valuable materials that are separated for recycling and are clean, fetch higher prices with recycling contractors. Separating waste also provides opportunities for students to upcycle materials that are destined for another bin (e.g. recycling) which cuts costs in classroom supplies. For instance, students could make and distribute notebooks made from recycled paper. Challenge students to devise creative upcycling solutions. This guide provides lots of ideas to get you started in areas such as packaging and purchasing, reducing waste, repairing and reusing, recycling and organic waste recycling.
  • promote positive waste behaviours in your school and community: Conduct a school community survey and use the results to meet the needs of your school community
  • recognise achievements and successes: Celebrating milestone achievements with the whole school community (students, teachers, school staff, parents and the community at large) is important for sustaining morale, maintaining focus, setting higher standards and encouraging new volunteers to become involved in programs.

Lots of ideas to get you started.

Large volumes of waste are produced across the nation each year; schools contribute a significant volume of this waste. In 2017–18, Queensland produced nearly 11 million tonnes of waste, with the increase in waste generated over the last decade outstripping population growth by 19 per cent. More waste means more landfill sites in our communities, more greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, and more litter in our environment[1].

[1] Queensland Government 2019, Queensland Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy, accessed 10 August 2019.

This document is part of free waste education resources at www.wasteeducation-qld.org