Unless the recyclables are prepared properly and kept free of contamination, the program will fail. The school must treat the recyclables as materials that have value, not just as another form of trash. The key to quality control is regular monitoring of recyclables. In many schools, students enjoy serving as monitors. It is critical for all adults and students to be aware of which materials are acceptable in the school’s recycling containers and which belong in the trash containers. Monitors should screen the recycling containers before collection day and either remove all contaminants or leave the recyclables behind with a notice stating why the container is unacceptable. The monitors also should notify the Central Coordinator about continuing problems.
A “Materials Not Acceptable” card can be created by the school, to be left behind whenever unacceptable materials are found in a classroom, office, teachers’ lounge or elsewhere. On the other hand, don’t underestimate the power of positive feedback – develop a thank-you card to recognize good habits, or list good recyclers on the school website.
When contamination occurs in materials generated in the cafeterias, the food service managers and their staff should be notified about being more careful, and students should have the recycling message reinforced through loudspeaker announcements and onsite monitors.
The team leader should visit each school periodically, not only to answer questions and to provide progress reports, but also to spot-check for contaminants. Even the most carefully planned and implemented program can fall apart if quality control is not maintained.
Meetings with the superintendent should be scheduled as needed with the Central Coordinator and buildings and grounds manager, to discuss the program’s progress. Successes and failures should be discussed, and solutions determined. Meetings with the business administrator should be scheduled as needed, to discuss contractual issues with the hauler, and to review data from initial and routine waste audits to understand the management of materials generated in the school. Prior to the contract’s expiration, the business administrator will need to develop new bid specifications, taking into account the expertise of the recycling team. She/he may also be the representative who provides summaries of volumes or tons of materials recycled to the municipal recycling coordinator for use in the municipality’s tonnage report. This is the time to “right-size” dumpsters, explained further below.