As the kids get ready to head back to school, teachers and parents can also prepare for a new school year by planning a classroom waste audit.


What is a waste audit?

A classroom waste audit is a fun, hands-on way for kids to learn about how much waste is generated and all the potential destinations for their classroom “trash.” From kindergarten to high school, classroom waste audits resonate with all ages, as every student and teacher handles waste on daily basis.


Take stock of how much waste your class accumulates

  • • Save a day’s worth of classroom trash, including food and other organic waste
  • • Spread out a tarp and ask students to sort their waste into 4 destination piles: 1) reusables, 2) compost bin, 3) recycling center and 4) landfill
  • • Weigh each category separately. Then create a bar graph or chart together, detailing how much each category weighs.


Reduce, reuse, recycle, compost and become a waste-free classroom!

  • • Once this initial exercise is complete, teach students about reusing—which items can be reused or upcycled. Help students think creatively about trash and its potential for reuse, but also warn against the leaching properties of some plastics that should not be reused. Open up the discussion to replacing these disposables and others—like plastic baggies and juice cartons—with reusable items. (You could even teach an art unit on upcycling trash and have the class create upcycled pieces and crafts.)
  • • Next, teach students the basics of recycling—identifying recyclables, separating and preparing recyclables, deciding where to take local recycling, etc. Create and decorate recycling bins for all recyclable items. (Instead of labeling, you can draw fun pictures of recyclables for pre-reading classes!)
  • • If your school or classroom doesn’t already have one, start a classroom composter, vermicomposter or chicken bucket. Teach students about the different composting options available to them, which items are compostable, how to balance brown and green organic materials, how these items are broken down by worms and chickens, etc.
  • • Separate your “trash” piles again, based on what the class has just learned and re-weigh your items. The decrease in weight of the landfill pile will be a happy surprise! Make a second graph to compare against the first.
  • • Celebrate with a waste-free party!

Kids RecyclingAurora Photos

A simple and fun procedure, a classroom waste audit can be conducted for a day, a week or longer. It can even be expanded to include the entire school, as a light competition between grades or classrooms or just as an exercise in collectively moving towards becoming a Waste-Free School!