NWF’s Eco-Schools USA Partners with Recycle Across America to Help Simplify Recycling for Schools

Free standardized recycling labels will go to 1,000 K‐12 public schools across the U.S.

04-20-2012 // Max Greenberg
Full recycling bin

NWF's Eco-Schools USA program has announced that it will partner with Recycle Across America (RAA) to help improve school‐based recycling by providing free standardized recycling labels to K‐12 public schools across the U.S.

A total of 150,000 labels will be given to 1,000 schools as part of the program. Kiehl’s, the New York‐based maker of skin- and hair-care products, has donated $100,000 to the effort and pledged all net proceeds from its Limited Edition Label Art series, which features designs by Florence Welch, Mark Ruffalo, Rosario Dawson and Spike Lee.

“We are excited to work with Recycle Across America and further remake the footprint of the American school, shrinking environmental and financial impact by reducing the amount of garbage being hauled away at the end of the day,” said Laura Hickey, Senior Director of Eco‐Schools USA. “Eco‐Schools USA is at its best and most enriching when it marries environmental literacy training with concrete implementation—in this case, helping schools conserve resources, save money and add to the greater mission of reducing waste in America.

“When people have to take time to try to learn a different looking label at every recycling bin, they often treat the bin like a trash can,” said Mitch Hedlund, founder and executive director, Recycle Across America. “Standardized labels are a simple solution to improve recycling nationwide. Many notable companies are now using the standardized labels within their organizations and Kiehl’s philanthropic leadership giving 150,000 standardized labels for U.S. schools, is starting a trend that other corporations are beginning to follow."

Necessary Changes

Chief among the priorities for any school—or, indeed, any institution looking to embrace waste reduction--is ensuring that recycling bins are obvious and easy to use, featuring labels or posters to clarify appropriate materials. In the past, this has led to a hodge-podge of confusing or inconsistent markers and, eventually, consumer confusion and apathy: the 2010 recycling rate, as measured by percentage of the municipal solid waste stream, improved by only about 8% between 1995 and 2010, and still stands well below 50% overall. This suggests that, despite recycling’s well-established place in the American psyche and bins ubiquitous from curbside to cafeteria in nearly every community, there remains much work to be done.

Making recycling practices more standardized could be a big step. According to RAA, a recent case study in which consistent labels were applied to recycling bins throughout 15 schools in a Minnesota school district resulted in a 47 percent increase in recycling rates and a 47 percent reduction of the district’s solid waste tax bill. Additionally, costly contamination was significantly reduced.

A Recycling Tradition

The recycling label project is in keeping with existing Eco-Schools USA standards. Among available pathways chosen by schools that have undertaken an Environmental Audit is Consumption and Waste, which entails reducing environmental impact by analyzing the full life cycle of products used; trimming consumption; reducing packaging and transport distance; and recycling as many items as possible with an eye toward shrinking the garbage footprint of the school.

Please visit the Eco-Schools USA page on the partnership with Recycling Across America to learn more.

Related Resources
  • How to Become an Eco-School

    Through school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators and community volunteers, Eco-Schools combines effective "green" management of the school grounds, facilities and the curriculum.

  • The Eight Eco-Schools Pathways

    The Eco-Schools USA program is made up of seven steps, incorporating eight environmental pathways.

  • Current Eco-Schools  

    Check the map to see if your schools are Eco-Schools.