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price make up | household energy audit | household water audit | school waste audit


keywords: life cycle | 4 magic ‘R’ (reducing, reusing, repairing & recycling) | separate waste collection | energy saving.

school waste audit
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courtesy, MÉTA

goal: how aware are we of the waste we generate? The objective of a school waste audit is to introduce the idea to your students that garbage doesn't just disappear once it is collected in your garbage can. You can't just throw it away. It can be compacted, buried, composted or changed to ash and vapour but the garbage must all go somewhere. The school waste audit is set up to determine waste composition and volume of materials, what portion can be recycled, re–used, reduced, or eliminated and what recyclable material could be substituted for non–recyclable materials currently in use.

risk: make your students stop thinking about garbage just as ‘dirty stuff’. Make them appreciate waste as an important resource, and make them understand that minimising/recycling waste cannot be limited only to school but should be applied to any of their daily activities. In short, the message should be “Recycling is cool!”

YXC level: 2nd level (first community).

YXC materials: packaging yourself [Rethinking Luxury | Waste To Taste | Committed Sportswear | Made In Favela | 2nd Chance To Clothes] - looking for a place [Eco-Logic Design | From Waste To Houses] - carrying the torch [Environment’s Caretakers] - clean up your fun [Less Waste Tips | Sust. Living Festival] - pay the right price [Collect A Can | Eco-Tickets Program | Plastic Free Goa | Let’s Exchange] - facts & figures, GENERAL DATA [Eco-Footprint] - facts & figures, ENVIROMENT [How Much Is Thrown Away | E-Waste | Drinks Containers (1) | Drinks Containers (2)] facts & figures, OTHER NEEDS [Green Olympics | Tourism/Environmental Impact] - department store [Compostable T-Shirt | Eco-Sandals From Kenya | Freitag Bags | Greenkarat | Relan Bags | Wear Your Soda | Eco-Bins | Kitchen Compost Bin | Ultimate Hammock |Interface Carpets | Cardboard Speakers | Green Office Paper | Earth-Tones | Ecolabel Catalogue | E-Waste] - job opportunities [Scrap | Reciclar T3 | Recyclart | Enayetullah-Sinha] - test & play [RECYCLING OR DUMPING?] – links [Consumers Education | Waste & Recycling | Eco & Ethical Fashion Goods | housing/ECO DESIGN | creative lab/MULTIDISCIPLINARY INITIATIVES | creative lab/TEXTILE & FASHION DESIGN | Alternative Exchange Systems]

subject areas: Science & Technology | Social studies | Economy & biz| Workshops

work planning: bulletPhase 1, find out if parents and your school administrators will allow to carry out the waste audits. Send home permission slips. Students who are not allowed to participate can be responsible for writing the analysis of the audit and charting the activity; bullet Phase 2, notify your school custodian of the waste audit. Coordinate with your food service staff to make sure that wet waste generated from the cafeteria is separated from the dry waste; bullet Phase 3, contact the local authority in your area to find out about recycling and waste disposal facilities; bullet Phase 4, introduce the class to the aims of the school waste audit. Ask your students to identify waste categories (office paper, coloured paper, food, cans, plastics, e-waste, etc.); bullet Phase 5, your class will be divided into teams, the sort team, the weighing team, the collection of container team, and the analysis team. Measure and monitor the amount of waste the school produces on a weekly basis. The monitoring should be carried out for – at least – 2-3 months. Take into consideration both ordinary waste production and special events (such as school parties, general assembly, etc.); bullet Phase 6, discuss with students about the best way to cut down on each type of waste (for example whether the waste can be reduced, reused or recycled); bullet Phase 7, propose your students to design a “waste minimisation plan”, improving waste management procedures, people’ awareness & participation, local authorities support.

timing: taking into consideration that every day is different when it comes to garbage, the best option for an effective school waste audit is to monitor waste production and disposal week by week over a one-year period. Audits over shorter periods (6-12 weeks) should be considered only as snapshots, and less valid.

material needed (indicative list) :bullet 4 garbage cans labelled (2 for wet waste and 2 for dry waste); bulletplastic garbage bags for each of the containers; bulleta scale for weighing the materials (in pounds or kilograms); bullet2washable plastic tarps; bulletgloves and goggles for the students conducting the audit; bulletchange of clothes and washable shoes for students; bulletlitter pick–up stick (your school district maintenance staff may have this item); bulletparent/guardian permission slip.

Permission Slip

On date…………our class will be participating in a study of waste generated by the school. This will involve the handling of school garbage from dumpsters. Students will be provided with gloves and goggles, we will coach them in safety procedures, and every precaution will be taken to ensure your child's safety. A faculty member will be present. We need your permission for your child to participate in this activity. If this meets your approval, please sign the statement below.

If you have any questions please contact……………………at School.

My child……………………………has my permission to participate in the school waste audit to be conducted at School.

Parent signature……………………………


testing student knowledge(with key questions): the following questions should be discussed in the form of class brainstorming before any subsequent introduction to the topic, to test students’ knowledge/awareness.


bullet Which types of waste are recyclable? bullet What is, in your opinion, the best way to cut down on each type of waste? bullet What could be the benefits of reducing waste by recycling? bullet What about the advantage of composting practices? bullet Do you know if in your community exists an environmental program dedicated to recycling and waste management? bullet Is there a local recycling centre that can be easily reached from your school? bullet Can you find out if there are any opportunities to sell valuable recyclable products such as aluminium cans? bullet Can you indicate the main recycling advantages starting from a little dimension (for example your home or your school) and going up to a larger one (for example your city or your country)?


bullet Do you recycle everything that you can? bullet Would you recycle aluminium can in a recycling bin if it was located a few meters away, or would you put it in the trash can, which might be closer? bullet If you are not recycling, why not? bullet What would it take to get you to recycle more? bullet Do you print double–sided copies? bullet Do you make your own lunch? If so, do you put your lunch in reusable containers? bullet Do you have a compost bin?

intro to the topic (background): we all produce waste of some sort. Garbage is measured by how much it weighs and by how much space it takes up (volume). You’re going to estimate the volume and measure the weight of the materials you find in your school’s garbage cans.

School waste is made up of food, paper and packaging, sweet wrappers, as well as other materials such as glass, plastics, aluminium and metals. So where does it all go? In industrialised countries, for instance, about 70% of waste is land filled, which means it's buried in the ground, while about 8% is incinerated, which means it's burnt. Land filling and incineration can harm the environment if not properly managed. There are three valid alternatives, which can help restraining this problem.

bullet REDUCING: every year the amount of rubbish we produce increases and this leads to growing costs (economic, social and environmental) for the community. As consumers, we have the possibility to reverse this trend, for example buying only what we really need, choosing long lasting products, and avoiding those over-packaged.

bullet REUSING: we can cut down on the amount of rubbish we have to get rid off by reusing our materials. Furniture and clothes, for instance, could easily be refreshed: just use your creativity, and transform out-of-fashion stuff in original and highly personalised (unique!) items.

bullet RECYCLING: putting materials aside for recycling we save valuable materials and energy. New technologies are fostering our ability to recycle what was previously our waste and turn it back into the resources we need. Your local authority is responsible for providing recycling sites for householders to take their rubbish to. Many local authorities also run waste collection schemes - for example, they may collect newspapers, glass bottles and cans if they are separated into containers provided by the council and put out for collection on a particular day of the week.

providing evidence: you could bring as example to the classroom some case histories that show successful models of waste management at school. At the same time try to show the students the high quality of some recycled product in order to win the mistrust on the recycled products' performances or durability. For example, try to promote the use at school of recycled paper, recycled print cartridges, etc. (see DEP’T STORE)

methodological suggestions:

Step 1: choose the areas to evaluate and collect the garbage. Collect the garbage at the end of the day and set it aside to audit the next day, unless you are doing the audit after school.

TAB 1. Waste Audit Form: sources of your school’s waste

Place ticks in the table to indicate the source(s) of each type of waste in your school.

Type of WasteSource
Paper and Cardboard       
Al. Cans       
Other Metals       
Food Waste       
Garden Waste       

School: ……………………………………………..
Name: ……………………………………………..
Date/time: ……………………………………………..

Step 2: assign tasks. If you are examining several areas, assign a team of students to each area. If you are examining only one area, give each student one of the evaluation tasks listed below:

  • sorters: you need 3 to 8 students to sort materials into categories.
  • weighers: you need 1 to 2 students to weigh materials.
  • recorders: you need 1 to 2 students to keep track of the weights and volumes.

Step 3: do the audit! Carry the garbage you are evaluating to a place where you can sort the garbage on the tarp. The parking lot next to the dumpsters is best (if it’s not windy or raining).
  • Weigh each can of garbage. Then dump out the garbage and weigh the can without the garbage. Subtract the weight of the empty can from the weight of the filled can. This gives you a total garbage weight.
  • Now sort the garbage. Group materials into categories listed on the Waste Audit form. These material categories are intended to be a general guidance. If you have very few of some items, you can combine them into categories such as paper, plastic, etc. If you find a lot of one item, such as paper bags, make that a separate category.


You need to determine the total weight of the garbage you are evaluating. If you have several containers, weigh each one and enter your totals in the spaces below.

Total weight of full container(s)  
Subtract weight of empty container(s) 
Total weight of garbage 
Total volume of garbage in container 


List items separately or combine categories that have small quantities.

Material type
% Weight
(of total
of items)
% Volume
(of total)
Factors affecting
the amount
of garbage

(fill by category: paper, plastic, etc.)
white, colored    
paper bags    
junk mail    
magazines, catalogues    
milk cartons    
paper cups, plates    
plastic baggies    
plastic trays    
single-serve items    
aluminum cans    
tin cans    
scrap metal    
single use    
(wet waste)    
Garden waste    
(wet waste)    
cleaning products    

  • When you’re done sorting, estimate the volume of each material. Volume is the amount of space the garbage takes up. Use five gallon buckets to estimate volumes. Pack the material slightly. Volume is important to know because it tells you what is ‘filling up’ the school’s dumpster.
  • Next, take each pile of sorted material and weigh it. Remember to subtract the weight of the bucket.
  • Record the weight. If a bag doesn’t weigh enough to register on the scale, count the number of items. For example, a pile of plastic baggies won’t have any weight. Count them and write down the number of baggies you find. At the end of your evaluation, make sure your weights add up to the total garbage weighed. Your volumes should add up to the total gallons evaluated. The percentages of your weights and volumes should add up to 100%.

Waste auditing tips
Every day is different when it comes to garbage. Make notes about things that could affect how much garbage is in the can. Are a lot of students absent today? Is it a “Clean Out Your Locker” day?
As you sort and weigh materials, think about and discuss ideas for ways to reduce (or prevent), reuse or recycle the materials you find. Write down these ideas. They will come in handy when you write your plan of action. This could be a follow-up activity.

results assessment: the success of this pedagogical module on reducing the impact of school waste can be measured by the following results:

  • informative goals: after 6 weeks ask the students for a detailed report on the broad research described above and the practical implementation of the solutions proposed by this classwork.

  • action goals: ask the students to propose, for any found product, an appropriate recycling model or an alternative use of these resources according to the products main features. Any class group could focalise the attention on a specific product. Finally, students could propose to local authorities to launch a recycling campaign in order to stimulate the public opinion on this issue.

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