The Schools Food Scrap Recycling Program took some time to reach our schools in a sustainable way.  As of 2005, there was no ongoing food scrap recycling programs in any of the 17 Castro Valley schools.  While food scraps and food-soiled paper represent at least 25 percent of a schools’ waste stream (and often times about 50% once the school is recycling well),

After gaining experience in setting up school food scrap recycling programs, CVSan developed a comprehensive guide in 2007 and has improved and updated it each year since to help schools implement a successful program.  It’s not a one-size-fits-all guide but it lays out important features for schools to follow.  Click here for the step-by-step guide to starting a food scrap recycling program at your school.  The guide focuses on sustainability of a program with emphasis on teamwork (students, principals, parents, teachers, noontime supervisors, and custodians), commitment, preparation, and follow-up.

The response to the guide has been varied but very positive.  Most schools have worked with the guide components and recommendations on the whole and have found it very helpful.  The recommendations in the guide run into obstacles at times as each school is different and at different stages of waste reduction and therefore may not always implement everything recommended.  For example, CVSan stresses that recycling programs be developed and successful before a school takes on a food scrap recycling program.  Also, some schools chose not to collect liquids in a bucket due to added time to take care of the bucket. 

As with any program, adapting to the needs of each different school is important, so CVSan works with schools to implement as much as they can in the appropriate time frame.  For example, CVSan offers plastic film recycling called bag-a-bag and most schools chose to take this on after recycling and food scrap recycling have been established as bag-a-bag takes a separate container from recycling.  Also, some schools chose to start food scrap recycling with compostable trays only and this is a good start on the way to full food scrap recycling.


Recycling food scraps at school can be challenging, but it is often the single most effective waste reduction action a school can take.  Castro Valley schools that compost food scraps divert an average of 82% of their waste away from landfill!  Also, currently, 15 of 16 Castro Valley schools have sustainable food scrap recycling programs.  As a result of the Schools Food Scrap Recycling Program, along with other supporting programs such as the Green Ribbon Schools Program, Waste Audits, the provision of supplies, and continuous training, diversion by volume among all Castro Valley schools has gone from 35% in 2005 to 82% in 2018.

Students have been able to utilize their knowledge and skills to recycle and compost more at school and home, and build upon their foundation for the future.

The development and implementation of the Schools Food Scrap Recycling Program has produced educational, sustainable, and effective organics management and diversion at schools.  As a result of CVSan and its partners’ efforts (Castro Valley Unified School District, Waste Management of Alameda County, and StopWaste.Org to name a few), schools in Castro Valley are reducing their waste significantly, saving money, and also learning the environmental benefits of such significant waste reduction.

Click here for the step-by-step guide to starting a food scrap recycling program at your school.

Other CVSan School Programs:

3rd Grade 4Rs Field Trip

Green Ribbon Schools Program

School Waste Audit Program