End-Of-Year School Clean Outs

Untapped Waste Diversion in K-12 Schools

Background

For most students, cleaning out their desk or locker is a long-awaited tradition that signals the end of the school year and starts summer break.  But in their haste to leave school – students, faculty and staff can throw away tons of materials in the blink of an eye that could be reused or recycled instead – making the last few days of school the biggest waste days of the year.

Markets Served:

Approach

White Bear Lake Area Schools, a public school district located in Ramsey and Washington Counties within the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area, serves about 9,000 PreK-12 students in 16 school buildings.  In June 2015, the district partnered with EcoConsilium and the Counties to pilot two end-of-year school clean outs.

At Otter Lake Elementary, 290 third, fourth and fifth grade students diverted 1,516 pounds (0.76 tons) of materials over a period of six school days.  By weight, 92% of the materials were recyclable and 8% were reusable school supplies.  An average of 5 pounds of reusable and recyclable materials per student were diverted from the waste stream.

At Sunrise Middle School, 260 eighth grade students collected 290 pounds of discards during lunch on the last day of school.  By weight, 60% of the materials were recyclable, 24% were reusable school supplies and clothing and 16% was trash.  Slightly less than one pound of materials per student was diverted from the waste stream.

In May 2016, end-of-year school clean outs targeting the collection of reusable school supplies, clothing, recyclables and trash were launched district-wide for the first time. The reusable school supplies and clothing collected were redistributed in the following manner:

  • Teacher classrooms
  • Summer school programs
  • The Closet (a district resource for families in need)
  • Superintendent’s backpack program
  • Good Will

This highly successful clean out program continues at White Bear Lake Area Schools and has become a new tradition that marks the end of each school year.

Results

Since 2015, EcoConsilium has integrated end-of-year school clean outs into our holistic approach to developing waste diversion programs for K-12 schools.  We standardize the process sequence for separating, collecting and transferring significantly large volumes of reusables, recyclables and trash generated in a very short period of time and help schools institutionalize their clean out programs by developing standard operating procedures.