Classroom waste audit

2 points

A waste audit is essentially an assessment of what your school is throwing away. Conducting a waste audit is a great way to evaluate the types and quantities of waste being generated at a school and learn about how you may be able to be more environmentally friendly.

There are many different methods for performing a waste audit and this is only one method to visually assess what is being disposed of in your classroom. By simply looking into your waste containers, you will be able to notice several things about your landfill trash, classroom paper recycling and commingle recycling:

  • Are we putting the right materials in the correct container?

  • How much waste are we generating?

  • Could we do a better job sorting our waste?

  • Are we contaminating our recycling?

Activity Instructions:

Gather a group of interested, responsible students and explain to them that they will be conducting a visual waste audit. Provide them all with rubber gloves and a grabber tool. Your head custodian or dining services manager should be able to assist you with this. They should not be touching the waste materials with their gloved hands and only using the grabber tool to move material in the container, not out of the container.

After students have gone through the waste station and deposited their material in waste containers the group of auditors will follow behind them and look at the containers. They should answer the following questions:

  1. What kind of trash is in the landfill trash?

  2. Are there recyclable materials in the landfill trash?

  3. What kinds of recyclables are in the recycling container?

  4. Are we unsure if a particular piece of waste is in the correct container? If so, what is it?

Ask the Building Services staff to count the number of bags of landfill trash, number of bags of commingled recycling, and the number of classroom carts that were used during a school day. These numbers give you a rough idea of what percentage of waste is coming from each source. You can chart and graph this if you would like and conduct follow up audits to track your progress.

Using the questions that the students answered about the visual audit they should develop a plan to educate their peers on proper sorting. The students can communicate what they saw to the school and make specific recommendations on what could be diverted and what materials are causing contamination. This can be done through periodic announcements, signage, or whatever means the school decides. The primary purpose of this challenge is to identify what is going where!

To receive points, please submit the following to

Education@solidwasteauthority.org or text your Recycling Coordinator:

  • Photos of the students conducting the visual assessment

  • Sample of student responses to the questions or a written student assessment

  • Plan for how to address sorting and contamination