Try to imagine what a day’s worth of garbage at an elementary school might look like…now imagine dumping it all over the ground and sorting through it, piece by piece. I know what you’re thinking: “Ew”. And you’re right, it can be pretty gross.

Waste Audit at Ryerson School 2015 - pile of garbage on tarp (2)

School-generated garbage is dumped onto a tarp to be sorted piece by piece as part of the Waste Reduction Road program.

But for at least 300 students across the province this year, it was behavior altering. This year, six schools jumped in with open minds to explore a pilot program offered by Green Action Centre called Waste Reduction Road; a program aimed at reducing the amount of student-generated waste from schools, thereby supporting landfill diversion and waste reduction education.

One grade 5 student shared that prior to participating in this program he didn’t think about what he put in the garbage at all, in fact he admitted to littering on a regular basis. Since completing the waste audit with his school, he’s become a member of his schools’ Green Team and is championing initiatives around his school. This is just one of several success stories.

Testimonials from participating students:

“I should reuse my water bottles to try not to throw as many things in the garbage because too much garbage means it pollutes the air.” – Grade 3 student

“I learned there are 4 R’s, not 3.” – Grade 3 student

“Some kids don’t have a lunch at all and others throw the whole sandwich away. Food is expensive and we need to compost” – Grade 5 student

“We thought recycling was only for paper products and that the garbage was the place to put everything that was dirty or didn’t work.” – Grade 5 student

“We have a box of reusables now – things like paper towel for arts and crafts. We remind classmates to reuse their stuff.” – Grade 2 student

Waste Audit at Ryerson School 2015 - garbage and recycling

A school’s daily garbage post-sort: green bags are compostable material, blue bags are recycling, and black for the landfill.


One of the participating northern schools in Thompson this year went from 15 bags of garbage being sent to the landfill each day to just 3 after implementing vermi-composting and a stronger recycling program. The schools implemented various activities and new ways of addressing waste in their schools, including initiatives such as:


  • School-wide composting; both vermi and school-yard bins
  • School assemblies focussed on recycling and waste reduction
  • Environmental poetry slam
  • Environment/Green Teams formed; student run with teacher facilitation
  • Recess garbage collection
  • Composter of the Month
  • Daily eco-tips over the morning announcements
  • Green Christmas theme
  • Waste bodyguards during school lunches to redirect the waste
  • Litterless lunch program

Teacher feedback about the program:

“When you pay more attention to it, you can reduce it; little pieces make a big difference.”

“Our school generates a lot more garbage than I thought!”

“We are throwing out a lot of things that can be recycled or composted.”

“I see kids picking up garbage and they tell stories about stopping their parents from littering.”

Waste Audit at Ryerson School 2015 - children sorting with Kelly Kyruk

Students chat with Kelly about ways to reduce their waste after the big sort of garbage at their school.

Interested in making an impact with your students?

We are currently looking to recruit 6 schools for the upcoming school year (2015-2016) to join the Waste Reduction Road program. If your school or class is interested in this program, please contact Becky at 204-925-3779.