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Waste management programs at an organization, particularly at school level have a long way to go in developing a culture of environmental protection and awareness. What's more, running a full-fledged program will give students a valuable managerial experience. So whatever position you may be in at a school, a student or a teacher or even a parent, do not hesitate to suggest a cohesive waste reduction program for your school to your stakeholders.
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Choosing a Waste Management Program
Waste management programs will be invariably based on one or more of these:
- Reuse of materials
- Reduction in usage of consumable items
- Recycling of glass, paper, plastic or metals
- Educational and environmental awareness drives
Here are a few such ideas that could be put to good use:
- Identify a community drop off point: Designate a central point (like the parking lot) where everyone can drop off their not-in-use items. You will also have to arrange for the pickup of these items. So you can contact the local authorities to get contacts of businesses or non-profit organisations that collect specific items for reuse or recycling. At the drop off point, put down a list of 4-5 categories so that people drop stuff in the correct category. Some items like scrap metal containers, glass, used paper, plastic could be used for recycling. Other things like electronic items, computers, toys etc. could be reused or sent to charitable organizations.
- Exchange the items for money: Find out if your local recycling centre exchanges recyclable items for money. You can set up an account at the centre so that the value of all your recyclables can be added to your account. The funds thus raised can be used to further finance such programs.
- One-time drives: One-time drives come at specific times. Like at the end of the academic year, you can arrange for collection of stationery, old books etc. These can go to charitable organisations. Or some festival specific products could be collected at the end of a festival.
- Competitions and awareness: Apart from poster making competitions, you can have have other things made out of waste or recycled stuff. For example, you can conduct a paper bag designing competition and the theme could be a recycling drive. You could then send these to the local grocery store for use in order to publicise your efforts.
Each of these would require different levels of commitment. The kind of program you choose for your organization depends on your availability of resources in terms of budget, student time, adult supervision, space and community involvement.
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Implementing the Plan
Whatever program you choose, it must be conducted with proper planning and organisation. Here are a few steps you should follow after you have decided what kind of program you would like to go for:
- Organize a team: Make an enthusiastic team and clearly demarcate responsibilities. For example, you can have a student incharge for each of these - finance, contacting school authorities, publicity and planning the operations. Have a staff or faculty head above these. Giving individual responsibility is meant only to make someone answerable to each small piece of work, however the team must work together on all the areas.
- Arrange finances: Have a clear idea of how much finances you have from the school or from non-profit organisations or government authorities. You can try approaching a sponsor for your activities. This would require a greater involvement of the school authorities, but will give good results because then the programs will be well publicised too.
- Budget it out: Work out the areas where your money will go. Some of these could be for transportation of wastes, buying containers for collection of wastes, incentives to volunteers and publicity.
- Publicise: As important it is to start a program for a good cause, just as important is letting people know. Educate your school, group and community about the programs that you are running, the environmental profits it reaps and the culture of conservation that it develops. Keep them informed about the benefits of the program you have been running to keep them inspired!
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Illinois EPA, http://www.epa.state.il.us/p2/green-schools/