What is your school, or your child’s school, doing about their waste footprint? Do not throw your hands up in despair if you are not personally involved in making school waste awareness happen.
Many schools are indeed doing great work in this line. I often say that the kids are far more aware than us adults – WE are the problem generation.
The Waste Wise school’s programme is one great programme to get those going who are not active yet. Their objectives are…
- To raise awareness among educators, learners and their families.
- To enable educators to raise awareness of the cause and effect of poor waste
management and the benefits of integrated waste management.
- To provide environmental tools to enhance quality of life.
- To assist schools with portfolio development and waste minimisation projects.
Eco-Schools and City’s Youth Environmental Schools work on waste awareness
In Cape Town the Department of Solid Waste works with the Western Cape’s Eco-Schools Programme and the City’s Youth Environmental Schools (YES) programme to provide training to learners and educators in waste management and the efficient use of resources.
Eco-Schools was launched in South Africa in May 2003 by the Wildlife & Environment Society for South Africa (WESSA), and aims to achieve sustainable environmental management by integrating the environment into the national education curriculum and empowering teachers and learners to implement environmental policies at school level.
If you’re interested in reducing your school’s waste output, your first step is to take a quick look at the various waste streams to give yourself a basic overview. Once you have a good understanding of the various waste streams, take a look at the steps below that your school needs to follow to become a Waste Wise School. Good luck!
Steps to become a Waste Wise School:
- Waste management committee
The first step in setting up a successful waste management programme in your school is to make sure that all parties which could affect the programme’s successbuy int to the idea and are committed to making it work. This includes the school governing body, teachers, parents, students, and the school cleaning staff. One of the best ways to do this is to create a waste project committee that includes representation from each of the key groups.
Your first requirement will be to identify the school’s waste coordinator (leading waste champion). Ideally, this will be a fairly senior teacher within the school (someone from within the school’s senior management team). The waste coordinator will be responsible for heading up the waste management committee and coordinating the waste management programme across the school.
More specifically he/ she will need to:
- Take responsibility for initiating, planning and implementing a waste audit.
- Develop and drive the implementation of action plans to reduce, reuse and recycle waste within the school environment.
- Raise awareness of the school’s waste minimisation programme and highlight the roles that each of the key groups need to play to make it a success.
- Provide training for other school staff and all interested parties.
- Set up and chair regular meetings with the school waste management committee.
- Keep the school management informed.
- Raise awareness within the surrounding community, and with media and/ or business with the objective of generating support/ financial assistance for the initiative.
It would be ideal if the school’s head teacher or principal were directly involved in the waste management programme since that would ensure it was supported from the top. However, if this is not possible, the waste management committee should set up regular update sessions with the head teacher or principal, to keep them informed on how the initiative is progressing and get support for new ideas, and input on addressing challenges that may arise.
The waste management committee should include 2 – 3 other teacher representatives, preferably from different areas within the school (e.g. one teacher from the academic side, one teacher from the arts and crafts side, and one teacher from the sporting side). As far as other staff is concerned, also include representation from the school caretaker and/or cleaning staff as their day-to-day activities can play an important role in its success.
It’s also important to have parents on the waste management committee. The success of your school’s waste minimisation programme, specifically the recycling centre, will depend on support from parents who will bring waste from home for recycling, and offer to help in the recycling centre.
Having students on the committee is also important, as they will help generating awareness and support from their peers.
Waste Audit – what types of waste do you have and how much?
Now that your waste management committee has been established, you can move onto conducting your waste audit. A waste audit will help you establish how much, and what type of waste your school currently throws away. This audit will give you information such as where your school produces its waste (classrooms, cafeteria, playground etc), what types of waste are produced, and how much is produced.
You will need:
- Bagged rubbish
- Old carrier bags (eight for each group involved in the audit)
- 10-20 large bin bags
- Spring balances or Newton meter scale
- Ground sheet/floor covers
- Clipboards with copies of the recording sheet
- Rubber gloves (one pair for each adult and child)
- Overalls or old clothing.
- Identify an average school day on which you will audit your school’s waste. Let all the staff know when the audit will take place
- Carry out a risk assessment – consider what the dangers associated with the audit might be and put measures in place to minimise them.
- You may want to send a letter to the parents to inform them about the activity, ask them to provide old clothing for the children to wear on the day, and possibly to request adult volunteers to support the activity in school.
- Ask the school caretaker to save one day’s waste from the entire school, including non-teaching areas such as bathrooms, staff rooms, offices and external areas e.g. the playground.
- Ask the caretaker to look through the bags to remove sharp objects and label each bag with the area of the school it came from (e.g. classroom 1, playground). Ensure all waste is clearly labeled, kept separately and stored safely and securely. Store all bags of waste safely overnight.
- Clearly explain all the health and safety issues to the students involved in the audit. Gloves should be worn at all times and students should call an adult if they see any sharp objects in the rubbish etc.
- Weigh all bags containing discarded food and capture the results in grams on the recording sheet. Once you are done you can dispose of the waste in the usual manner.
- Divide the students involved in the audit into three to four groups. Each group should have a ground sheet to work around, a recording sheet and pencil, and a set of spring balances or Newton meter scales.
- Get each group to empty the contents of one bag of rubbish at a time onto the ground sheet and sort it into the different types of waste shown on a recording sheet.
- Groups should have a separate carrier bag for each waste type. They will sort the waste into these bags and weigh them using an appropriate spring balance or Newton meter scale. Log the results on the recording sheet.
- Once the contents of the carrier bags in each group have been weighed and recorded, empty them into larger bin bags and re-use the carrier bag.
- When all bags have been sorted and the data has been recorded, dispose of the waste and recyclables in the usual manner.
The follow up
- The next step is to calculate the daily, weekly and yearly waste totals for the school. Multiply daily totals by five for the weekly results, and the weekly totals by 38 weeks (the average number of weeks per year spent at school). Work out the percentage of different types of waste produced.
- Compare waste data from different areas around your school to identify the waste ‘hot-spots’ (places where most of the waste is being generated)
- Discuss your findings. What are the most common types of waste? Is any of it recyclable? Which type of waste would make the biggest difference if recycled?
- This is the information you will use in planning how to REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE your school’s waste.
- Present your findings to the rest of the school through an assembly or newsletter.
First rule is to REDUCE your waste – STOP the generation
The best way to solve our waste problem is to firstly reduce the amount of waste we produce. So, depending on the outcome of your school’s waste audit, your school should try and focus on the waste stream(s) you are producing the most of and see where you can reduce your waste output. Looking at ways to reduce your waste output can be fun.
How about allocating each of the classes in your school a specific waste generation area and task the pupils to come up with clever ways to reduce the waste being produced. Implement the viable ideas and track the effect it has on the school’s waste generation. Award the class whose recommendations have the biggest impact on the volume of waste the school produces.
- Read more here.