Grant funds used to purchase recycling signage for district schools

Posted by EPS Communications on 2/26/2016

bins New signage in every school cafeteria aims to make the recycling process easier for students and more efficient. Purchased with funding from a $22,000 grant from Hennepin County, the new signs provide words and pictures describing what items can be thrown in each bin. It’s all about proper sorting.


At each district elementary school, an average of more than 90 pounds of waste is generated in the cafeteria each day. At a middle school, where there are more students, it is more than twice that amount. Unfortunately, the accuracy of the disposal of that waste varies widely and, at every school, could use some improvement.


Earlier this month, members of the district’s Go Green committee camped out in a school cafeteria to observe the disposal process. Their estimate was that the efficiency of organic sorting was just 11 percent; trash sorting was 14 percent; and recycling was 44 percent. Some schools have better rates, but they may have school staff or volunteers posted at the recycling center to help students sort waste into the appropriate bin. The idea behind the new signage is to educate everyone to know how to recycle on their own.


In November, the district standardized all of the waste bins so that the colors match the standards used by most places. Now signs over the bins give students even more information that will help them dispose of waste appropriately and quickly. Not only are there pictures of items that belong in each bin, there is also a rack for hooks to display actual items from that day’s menu to show students how they should dispose of these items.


Proper disposal is critical to a successful recycling program, according to Curt Johanson, buildings and grounds and custodial supervisor for the district. One wrong item in a bin contaminates the bag. “Most kids know that a half eaten sandwich is compostable,” he said. “But if they throw it away inside of a ziplock bag, the bin is contaminated.” Johanson said that if custodians notice items in the wrong bins when they are removing the bags, they re-sort a few items, but they do not have time to go through entire bags. If a bin appears to be too contaminated it will be tossed in the trash instead of composted or recycled. “We are trying to improve our process to help the earth,” Johanson said. “If we can help the kids learn this now they will carry it forward.”