Calgary Board of Education Tackles Waste

Connector Winter 2017

Waste reduction and diversion is an important component of the Calgary Board of Education’s (CBE), Sustainability Framework and Plan. The CBE’s goal is to reduce waste going to landfill by 80%, by 2020 (from 2007/08 levels).

The CBE is a large school board with more than 240 schools, 119,000 students and 13,000 staff. To achieve their waste reduction goal and comply with the City of Calgary’s ICI Waste Diversion Strategy, the CBE has developed processes and provided resources to help schools consistently recycle paper, cardboard, food and yard waste, to reduce waste and avoid disposal penalties.

The following actions have been implemented to help further reduce waste at the CBE:

  • In Sept 2015, 200 schools received centralized waste/recycling stations, providing schools with system-wide consistent equipment and signage. The stations include bins for recycling, refundable beverage containers (yellow), organics, and garbage. These bins have been colour-coded to match the City of Calgary totes: blue for recycling, black for waste, and green for organics. New schools opened after 2008 have received recycling equipment as part of their original school equipment list.
  • Simplified the centralized recycling program. Paper, cardboard, plastic containers, metal cans, foil, and glass containers can all go in the same bin. This matches the City of Calgary’s Blue Cart program, so staff and students can recycle the same items at home and at school. On average the CBE collects over 27,000 kg of recyclables every month.
  • Organics comprises 34% of the CBE’s waste, so an organics collection program is offered to schools. More than half of the CBE’s schools participate in this program. Those schools with an established organics collection program have, on average, reduced their waste to landfill by 79%.
  • School-Based Recycling Program Best Practices were developed to increase program sustainability and long-term success. Teachers and students are responsible for recycling in the classrooms and the facility operator collects the items placed in the centralized stations. All CBE students and staff have a role to play in reducing waste and in participating in the CBE’s recycling program.

Future actions include:

  • Continued support of schools in implementing the School-Based Recycling Program Best Practices.
  • Increase the number of participating schools in the organics collection program.
  • With student participation, developing a “How To” video on using the stations.
  • Provide an educator to design and deliver workshops and presentations for teachers and students.
  • Develop a strategy for standardizing schools’ waste services.

Implementation results:

  • The CBE is consuming more responsibly through education and efforts to reduce waste at the source.
  • The CBE is sending less solid waste to landfill through reduction and diversion efforts. As of June 2016, the CBE has reduced its waste by 64% from 2007/08 levels.
  • Staff and students are learning to be responsible stewards of the environment by contributing to the management and reduction of waste.
  • The CBE is saving money by reducing its waste disposal costs.

Submitted by Deborah Wehnes, Calgary Board of Education