Unexpected Benefits in School Wide Recycling Initiatives

March 3, 2014
Posted in Recycling

How do you improve recycling in NYC schools?  Involve the whole school in the effort!

Recycling protects our environment, stimulates economic development creating local jobs, and reduces global warming gases, benefitting the entire community.  At these K-12 Staten Island schools in the Recycling Champion Program , involving the entire community was the key to increasing recycling and environmental stewardship, but the additional benefits experienced have been an added bonus.

New Dorp High School
New Dorp High School improved cafeteria Organics Collection by launching an outreach campaign. Principal Deirdre De Angelis emphasized the importance of student participation before televising a recycling video in every classroom, featuring their mascot, the Cougar.  Custodial staff installed movie theatre style stantions next to the recycling station and additional staff instruction reinforced sorting. The Green Team sustained the effort by putting up posters and offering prizes for exemplary stewardship.  Cafeteria recycling and organics collection increased by at least 60%.

Students really appreciate the added bonus: the cafeteria is much cleaner, and is a more pleasant place to eat.  Cafeteria staff doesn’t mind the change either, since they were cleaning up after the students!


P.S. 30 Westerleigh

P.S. 30 dramatically increased recycling across the school by creating a Green Team that helps with cafeteria monitoring, and also communicates with the student body during morning announcements.   They kicked off their efforts with a school wide contest to decorate all their classroom paper recycling bins. The faculty enthusiastically supported the contest through their artistic flare and integrating recycling into lesson plans. The school’s overall diversion rate improved by 31%, with paper recycling rates increasing by 63% in just a few week.  Parents volunteered weekly to assist the Green Team with their own educational presentation.  According to Sustainability Coordinator Clare Mitchell, participating on this selective team has increased not only ecological literacy and stewardship, but has also proved to be an effective tool to improve attitude and behavior – improving overall academic performance.  


P.S. 21 Margaret Emery Elm Park

P.S. 21 created Dr. Seuss-like trees made from milk cartons, soda bottles, and magazines, to reinforce recycling, but also give students a creative way to practice their writing skills.  Students wrote “their story” on individual “leaves” which were strung on wire bases to create the trees.  Decorating the school at holiday time, Principal Gina Merino’s enthusiasm for the project helped student vocabulary “grow” along with school pride and awareness of environmental issues.  The Recycling Champions Program science class lessons reinforced the three RRR’s, which overlap with many requirements in the science Common Core and Regents exams.

Stakeholders in these schools increased recycling by working together, sharing the responsibility to teach and encourage environmental stewardship.  Improving recycling programs benefitted not only the NYC community, but their own school community as well.  For more information on how to improve recycling at your school visit www.grownyc.org/recyclingchampions

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