School Waste Audits

CVSan has completed ten years of waste audits in Castro Valley schools! A waste audit identifies materials going into the garbage that could have been recycled or composted. For example, we find paper and plastic in the garbage that could have been recycled in the blue bin. It’s important to remember that garbage travels directly to the landfill. Waste audits are an exciting learning activity for students, teachers, and parent volunteers to see firsthand what else can be recycled or composted instead of going to the landfill. Please read on to learn more about our excellent School Waste Audit program and how to sign-up for your Castro Valley school today.

In the 2019/20 school year, 16 public and private schools participated in waste audits. Students, teachers, and parent volunteers sorted through one day’s worth of garbage from their entire campus. CVSan compiled the results and provided each school with a report on what was found in the garbage and strategies on how to reduce waste. CVSan also presents results to School District Administrators once a year.

Waste Audits are quickly becoming an instrumental tool to encourage improvements in waste reduction programs at schools. For example, data from all 16 waste audits demonstrated that despite existing school recycling and food scrap programs in classrooms and lunchtime, the percentage of recyclables based on volume (paper, plastic, metal, glass) and the percentage of organics (food, food-soiled paper) found in the garbage was still 62.2% (32.2% recycling and 30% organics).

Waste Audit Data & Improvements
For waste audit improvements, this is one time we want to see the garbage figure increase. We want to find “actual garbage” in the garbage. The “actual garbage” found in the garbage data is most telling of progress made and therefore how much work can still be done when coupled with the percentage of recycling and organics in the garbage.  In the past six years of the waste audit program, the average garbage found in the garbage has increased. This is a trend we want to see continue since only garbage should be in the garbage! CVSan also found the total garbage sorted has decreased over time by over 50%. This is evidence of improvements in recycling and food scrap recycling at many schools. As a result, schools participating in waste audits have also been able to decrease their garbage and garbage service (and cost) by over 50% since 2011. Great job Castro Valley schools!

2019/20 Average Waste Audits Results:
Chart B: Average percentage of organics, recycling, and garbage sorted from the garbage at all participating elementary, middle, and high schools by volume
waste audit graph

Waste audits for 2020/21 are pending.

Tip: Avoid scheduling the waste audit after an event at the school, after a minimum school day, or during field trips.  These "special circumstances" will misrepresent the waste generated at your school.

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