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Waste reduction toolkit - Waste Reduction and Recycling - Green Schools Program

Waste reduction toolkit

Waste reduction (also known as waste prevention)

Waste reduction means decreasing the amount of materials or products needed in the first place. When we consume less, we reduce the amount of garbage and recyclable materials that must be collected and handled. Individuals, schools, and businesses can often save a significant amount of money through waste prevention.

Reducing and reusing are waste prevention strategies. For example, we can reduce food waste, buy products with less packaging, and ask to be removed from mailing lists to reduce unwanted mail. Buying products with no or fewer toxic materials also is an example of waste prevention. Reuse examples in schools include (a) replacing single-use polystyrene trays with durable trays that are washed and reused; and (b) replacing single-use milk cartons with milk dispensers and durable cups.

To achieve a low-carbon, circular economy, we need to minimize waste by rethinking, reducing, and reusing so materials stay in use longer.

See the best practices and resources below to help your school set up waste reduction and reuse practices. Also see the Waste Reduction and Recycling Best Practices Guide Download MS Word document , 450 K.


  • Zero Waste locker or cubby clean out. Hold a Zero Waste locker or cubby clean out, and then a School Swap DayDownload PDF 23 K to facilitate reuse and recycling at the end of the school year.

Cafeteria/lunchroom, kitchen, break room

  • Encourage students and staff to bring lunches in durable containers. See waste free lunches external link for tips on waste free lunches.
  • If your school uses single-use, disposable food ware such as polystyrene trays, see polystyrene lunch traysDownload PDF 48 K, and switch to reusable or compostable food ware.
  • At lunchtime, set up a share bin in which students may place the following items from the school lunch program for other students to take: Unopened, packaged foods/drinks and uneaten whole fruits with inedible peels such as oranges and bananas. Visit Reducing food waste in schools. Ask King County Green Schools Program for assistance, bins, and signs.
  • Donate unopened, packaged foods/drinks and uneaten whole fruits from the school lunch program. See Reducing food waste in schools for more information.
  • Watch a short video created by Crystal Springs Elementary School (Northshore School District) on how to prevent waste external link .

Classrooms and offices

  • Paper reuse boxes. In classrooms and offices, set up paper reuse trays or boxes to collect paper used only on one side. Invite students and staff to use the blank back side of the paper. Print this Good On One Side (GOOS)Download PDF 50 K image and attach it to each paper reuse tray.


School grounds

  • Leave grass clippings in place to provide nutrients to the lawn
King County Solid Waste Division mission: Waste Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Disposal

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