NYC has the largest school system in the country. The biggest share of our waste stream that could easily be recycled? Paper. Like any good student, GrowNYC put two and two together and created Recycling Champions. With schools currently averaging a 14% recycling rate, we are proud to report with one full school-year under our belts, Recycling Champions has seen recycling increase to 35%-50% among the 17 schools that participated in 2010-11. With a goal to boost rates at all NYC public schools to at least 50%, Recycling Champions works closely with the NYC Department of Education Sustainability Initiative, Division of School Facilities, and the NYC Department of Sanitation. Together with these partner agencies, participating schools with lagging recycling programs are identified. The school provides GrowNYC access to the entire community, including faculty, administration, students, custodians, and parents. In order to expand its reach, Recycling Champions is involved with the Department of Education Sustainability Initiative in developing citywide recycling trainings. Since 2011, nearly 1,430 public school sustainability coordinators and 1,200 custodian engineers have been trained on NYC’s recycling rules and best practices in schools.
How We Work
We spend an average of 2-3 months establishing goals for a school’s recycling program through waste audits and interviews with the school community. Concurrently, GrowNYC provides training and technical assistance to help schools meet the basic requirements for recycling education and infrastructure. We then introduce a variety of recycling events, campaigns, and classroom curricula designed to engage students in recycling activities and encourage schools to incorporate recycling education into professional development opportunities and faculty meetings.
In 2012 Recycling Champions provided recycling education to 2,967 students in grades K-12, and professional development workshops to 1,088 school faculty and staff citywide. Model school recycling programs were developed at 10 schools citywide, providing 8,000 students with access to improved and bolstered recycling.
A Tailored Approach
How best to get the message out about recycling to students is a question every school faces. Brooklyn Studio Secondary School in Bensonhurst decided that students would be the best messengers. Faculty members Destiny Kangas and Irene Tragares knew a few of their students were persuasive recycling advocates and could deliver presentations around the school to some 800 6th-12th graders. With education and training from Recycling Champions, over 30 students working in groups created brief presentations on what to recycle and why, reusing art supplies for posters, and creating PowerPoints or videos. This experiential learning allowed students to consider an important issue in recycling and actively engage their surrounding community to improve the situation – all while learning public speaking skills and meeting education standards.
With bins and signs in place, and the entire school educated, Ms. Tragares’ students designed a recycling bulletin board and created a rating rubric. Every Friday, two monitors checked on every room in the building and noted participation levels and ensured bins were in the right location. This easy followup activity led to a fun competition amongst classes and helped make recycling a part of everyday life at Brooklyn Studio Secondary School.
Click HERE to learn more about Recycling Champions.