Top 5 School Recycling Programs by State

Recycling - school

School recycling programs vary hugely in size and quality across the United States. Fortunately, these programs are becoming more common, but many schools lack the drive or the budget to start programs. A number of states have mandatory recycling programs in place for their public schools. As a result, these locations are usually far ahead of the rest of the states when it comes to school recycling programs in both results and comprehensiveness.

Here are the top five mandatory school recycling programs by state:


All public schools in Connecticut are required to recycle fourteen specific types of items, and many are able to recycle more. The mandatory items include corrugated cardboard, metal and glass food containers, and office paper. This mandatory program for school recycling is an important part of the state’s waste management plan, and the government emphasizes that it is a great opportunity for students to learn more about recycling and the environment.

New Jersey

New Jersey’s public schools receive excellent guidance for setting up their recycling programs. Its guidelines are suitable for private and religious schools as well, and the state has been assisting with these programs for nearly for over twenty-five years. New Jersey provides schools, teachers, and communities with a manual that covers all the recycling program needs you could think of, including student and community engagement.

New York

New York requires that both public and private schools, including universities and colleges, collect and recycle all the materials that their local program is able to take care of. Each jurisdiction can set up their own program, within the guidelines of the state. One great feature of New York’s school recycling program is a challenged issued by the state to schools; schools that make great strides in improving their recycling programs and reducing waste receive special recognition.


Pennsylvania’s school recycling program mandates the recycling of a number of very common materials such as paper, glass, and cardboard. Since these materials are the most common in schools, they make up a good portion of the recyclable material received from educational institutions. Some areas may require other goods to be recycled as well, the most common being plastic. What makes Pennsylvania’s program a model for others is the useful information it provides to schools and communities on how to make the recycling process efficient and adaptable to their needs.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island collects many recyclables, including the most common plastics and glass, as part of its mandatory school recycling program. In fact, the program that administers school recycling accepts more items than any other state. Rhode Island provides resources to help schools maintain and improve their recycling program. In addition, the state has a program that recycles waste items from businesses to schools who can make use of the items for creative and educational projects.

As recycling becomes more widely practiced, expect more states and schools to offer their teachers, students, and staff excellent opportunities to create and maintain strong recycling programs like these.

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Waste to Energy – How does it work?

Modern Gardening

Waste to energy is the most common name for a somewhat complex process: the stages of turning waste of all kinds into electricity or heat, generally done by incinerating the waste products. Usually, this is done by combustion, but waste to energy can also describe creating fuels like methanol which in turn are burned for energy. While its steps seem deceptively simple, a lot of work goes into creating efficient waste-to-energy facilities. However it’s done, waste to energy is an increasingly common tool used by waste management agencies in the United States.

Waste to energy is sometimes a hotly debated method of obtaining renewable energy, but proponents point to its benefits, which include reducing the need for fossil fuels, reducing methane produced in landfills, and managing the earth’s overwhelming amount of waste products. Most popular in Europe, in recent years waste to energy operations have expanded in the U.S. and more states and cities are incorporating it into their waste management plans.

So how does waste to energy actually work? It’s very much like burning coal or other fossil fuels, except it uses a renewable fuel, waste. The burning, of course, releases heat, which boils water until it turns to steam. This steam powers a massive turbine generator, just like a simple steam engine, which produces electricity that can be transferred along electrical power lines just like electricity from fossil fuel, solar energy, or other sources.

The heat required to burn the waste is very intense, often upwards of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. With the exception of glass, metal, and a select few other materials, almost all waste that goes into our landfills can be converted using waste to energy. In recent years, technological advances have made this process even more efficient.

Recently, for example in New York, there has been another form of waste to energy at work using bacteria rather than incineration. Methane gas produced by the bacteria as they eat waste products is used for energy. However, at present the waste that can be converted into energy in this way is only biological waste, where as traditional waste to energy through incineration can handle much more varied material.

As of 2010, there were 86 waste to energy plants in the United States, most of which were private. Connecticut recycled an impressive 67.65% of its waste via waste to energy incineration in 2010, while Massachusetts has seven facilities and also regularly burns and recycles upwards of 60% of its waste.

Because many waste to energy facilities are private operations, it can be somewhat difficult to get complete statistics. However, waste to energy is definitely on the rise in the United States as more and more states and municipalities realize the environmental and financial benefits of the process. While most programs are concentrated in the northeast, waste to energy is becoming more popular along the West Coast and southwest regions and may soon spread to other regions of the country.

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Best Cities to Live in for Robust Recycling

Recycle Day in Scottsdale

When you’re moving to a new city, its recycling program is often not at the top of the list of considerations. However, recycling is an important responsibility that we all must share and good city recycling programs can be an indicator of a city’s overall efficiency and consciousness.

For those who love green living and recycling, taking a look at the top city recycling programs in America can be an enlightening, and maybe decision-making, act. Not surprisingly, the most impressive programs are found in large cities. Here are a few of the best city recycling programs in the U.S.:

San Francisco

San Francisco recycles about 80% of its discarded waste, preventing it from being sent to landfills and instead sending it off to be recycled into new products. One of the most important reasons for its success is that it is extremely comprehensive in terms of how many goods can be recycled through the city’s programs. While some cities only collect and recycle a very limited number of items, San Francisco collects virtually every recyclable item. They provide residents with a list of these goods and guidelines for recycling on their website. Overall, San Francisco’s residents can be assured that they live in a city that lives up to its reputation for earth consciousness.

New York City

New York may be a vast city, but it has a good handle on its recycling program. With easily accessed guidelines for both people that have their trash handled by the city and those who have their trash handled by a private agency, New York excels at one of the most difficult parts of city recycling program: letting people know that it exists and that they can easily use it. With its great transportation infrastructure, New York is already a city that, in spite of its extremely developed environment, has a reason to consider itself greener than others. With recycling options available not only at home but throughout the city in public areas, New York makes it easy for those who love to recycle to do just that.


Seattle has an excellent recycling rate and its program is more efficiently run than many throughout the country. Any recycling fan can appreciate having clear guidelines and easily available information, and Seattle provides great resources to keep their residents updated and ready to recycle. Their website is comprehensive and includes plenty of opportunities to get your questions answered. They even have a convenient pricing tool, as Seattle’s program cost is based in part on the size and type of trash and recycling bins.


Austin’s single-stream recycling program makes recycling easy. Residents simply put all their acceptable recyclable goods into their carts and the city picks it up. In keeping with Austin’s often green attitude, this program has continued to grow and develop and now includes a composting program as well. With an excellent website explaining not just the allowed items but the logic and reasoning behind the allowable materials, prices, and standards, Austin can satisfy ardent recyclers.

If you don’t have a recycling program in your city, consider petitioning for one modeled off of these successful programs.

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5 Ways Helps People Learn How to Compost

better compostComposting is one of the easiest ways to benefit your immediate environment while reducing waste. The Composting Council gives great advice and information on composting, but even more importantly it has five major programs that aim to improve composting practices as well as the use of composted and compostable products in the United States.

The list below summarizes a few of the Council’s excellent programs. All are designed to help people learn how to compost on their own and to help consumers choose and use the best compost products possible.

1. Consumer Compost Use Program – The Consumer Compost Use Program’s main goal is to make it easy for consumers to identify the intended usage of a particular compost product.. The Council divides the uses of compost products into three simple categories: flower and vegetable gardens, trees and shrubs, and lawn.

These categories make it easy for consumers to choose a product and use it to their best advantage. Only members of the Seal of Testing Assurance program (see below) will be able to use these labels, so consumers who purchase products labeled under the CCU program can be assured of high-quality and environmental safety.

2. Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) – This compost testing program is a voluntary organization joined by many of the top composting scientists in the country. Through the STA, the Composting Council provides guidelines for testing compost in order to ensure effectiveness and quality.

These tests are done in independent labs and products which undergo the examinations can receive a seal or label. This lets consumers know the best use of the compost and assures them of the value and quality of their purchase.

3. Compostable Logo Project – A compostable label from the Composting Council is given to products that are fully compostable. This means that the product – often a plastic — is biodegradable and safe for composting in any modern facility. Products need to past rigorous testing ton receive this label, so it’s a great way for consumers to be confident that they are composting safely. It also eliminates the confusion that often comes with trying to identify which types of plastic are safe for composting.

4. International Compost Awareness Week – This week, abbreviated as ICAW, is an annual public education media program by the Composting Council. Its main goal is to educate people about all things composting. This includes how to compost at home, how large compost facilities work, why we should compost, and more. ICAW is a great resource for teaching anyone new to composting about its benefits and possibilities.

5. Compostable Plastics Task Force – The Task Force is aimed at creating conversation and meaningful actions between consumers, producers, recyclers, and composters of plastics. By educating manufacturers, composing program managers, and consumers about plastics and recycling, the Compostable Plastics Task Force hopes that the composting process can not only become more common, but easier and more efficient from start to finish.

The Composting Council is dedicated to its mission to help people learn more about composting, whether they do it themselves, participate in a city program, or purchase composted and compostable products. Check out their programs page for more information.

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Great Pacific Garbage Patch – 2014 Update

Plastic Ocean

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t one giant floating pile of garbage, as the name implies. If it were, it might be easier to think of a solution to the problem. The truth is that the garbage patch does contain big swathes of compiled plastic, but it is also the name for many individual pieces of plastic that litter the Pacific Ocean. Some of these pieces are so small that it you would have to search for them a moment before you would spot them in the water, but they are as serious a hazard as any more dramatic collection.

The garbage patch is all over the ocean, but it is especially evident in roughly the area that stretches from Baja California to the southeastern coast of Japan. There are two large sections, the Eastern and the Western patches, with a third area located between them, within the Subtropical Convergence Zone. In this remote part of the world, an estimated millions of tons of plastic pollute the water, posing danger to people, animals, and the planet.

A number of research foundations, businesses, and governments have hauled in debris (or recovered it from beaches) from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, particularly in the last several years. But what is actually happening to the garbage patch in 2014, and who is doing what?

Unfortunately, it appears that the patch has gotten not only bigger in size and in number of items, but it has in some ways solidified; new 2014 reports discuss the formation of garbage islands. These large collections of garbage are more like patches than the individual floating pieces that still dominate the area. More than simply patches, these garbage islands extend far under the water and have complex, uneven surfaces.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a U.S. government journal, predicted in a report this year that less garbage should be entering the system and that in fact some of the plastic may be disappearing. However, some of the researchers most familiar with the garbage patch (including the first to discover it, Charles Moore), have been finding that there is more plastic than they previously believed.

Moore is the founder of Algalita Marine Research Institute, which is devoted to studying the issue of plastic pollution. They have compiled the most important reports on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2014. Algalita has found that the newly found garbage islands have become shelters for a variety of marine life.

Although there has not been major action on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2014, it continues to attract attention. There have been government and international proposals to restrict dumping, and a number of agencies, including the NAS, have dragged some of the garbage for removal and study. There are a number of products made from recovered sea plastic, but there are no major plans to address the issue.

You can help decrease the amount of waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by using less plastic and recycling at you do use. Cleaning the ocean in any way is an enormous undertaking, and without international cooperation and citizens’ initiatives, it’s unclear how the resources to address this problem will come together.

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