Support for School-Based Recycling

The CCC has been working with key partners to ensure that all cartons consumed in schools are collected and recycled. Below is an overview of our latest initiatives.

Partnership with EcoSchools Canada

Focus: Best Practices, Tips and Tools to Support Carton Diversion in Schools
Timeline: 2020/2021 school year
Location: Canada-wide

Carton Council Canada has renewed its partnership with EcoSchools Canada. The focus on this year’s collaboration is the production of communication tools to support carton diversion in schools. The following resources are now available:

Partnership with EcoSchools Canada

Focus: Data Collection & Waste Auditing
Timeline: 2019/2020 school year
Location: Ontario

During the 2019/20 school year, Carton Council of Canada was pleased to partner with EcoSchools Canada, who works to build sustainable school communities. Their main vehicle for doing this is through a certification program for K-12 schools that nurtures environmental learning and climate action.

As part of the sponsorship agreement, EcoSchools agreed to collect relevant data about carton recycling in Ontario schools through two online surveys administered with school and school board representatives. The first survey (Fall 2019) found that:

  • 90% of respondents said cartons were accepted for recycling at their school and over half of them (56%) estimated that about 75% of cartons are successfully recycled. This was encouraging to CCC!
  • The top two barriers to carton recycling in schools were identified as the residual liquid found in cartons, and the lack of knowledge that they are recyclable

The follow-up survey (Spring 2020) aimed to identify potential solutions to address the previously-identified barriers. Asked about the feasibility of implementing a residual liquid management station at their school, 19% said it would be very feasible; 57%, somewhat feasible; 24%, not feasible.

Asked about potential efforts to address the lack of awareness that cartons are recyclable, the two most popular responses were putting up posters in key areas of the school (32%) and putting labels on recycling bins (25%).

The CCC is currently reflecting on how it could facilitate the delivery of these solutions, especially given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. One idea we are exploring is the creation of a “how to” video showcasing best practices for carton recycling in schools.

The other component of the sponsorship involved broadening EcoSchools’ waste audit template to include dedicated measurement categories for drink boxes and milk cartons (previously all recyclable beverage containers were tracked together). In total, 51 schools reported their waste audit data with EcoSchools. The average reported waste diversion rate was 54%. With regards to cartons, the milk carton diversion rate was 76% while drink boxes averaged 68% diversion.  We are encouraged by these results and we are in discussions with EcoSchools about how we can support schools in further increasing the diversion of cartons.

Partnership with The Gaia Project

Focus: Support for waste audits and waste management planning
Timeline: 2020/2021 school year
Location: New Brunswick

Trash Tracker is a program designed to inspire Grade 3-5 students to create a waste management plan for their school. Through sorting one day’s worth of school waste, students are able to identify issues and find solutions on how to improve their school’s waste diversion performance. In total, The Gaia Project is targeting the delivery of 28 Trash Tracker programs over the course of the 2020-21 school year. The Carton Council’s support will fund the implementation of six (6) of these.

The Gaia Project will send participating schools a project package with the equipment, learning materials, videos and worksheets required to conduct an accurate investigation of school waste.

The project will be conducted over 4 days:

  • a schoolyard clean-up,
  • an information and knowledge session,
  • the waste audit, and
  • a school waste diversion improvement plan that addresses the issues identified through the steps above (sample waste diversion plans to be provided to participating schools).

Staff from the Gaia Project will be virtually paired with participating classrooms to answer questions and support the direction of the investigation. Each participating school will be eligible for a small grant, to be used in the implementation of the school’s waste diversion plan.

As part of the partnership agreement, a new dedicated category for drink boxes and milk cartons will be added to the Trash Tracker waste audit template for use in all participating schools. New communication materials focused on school-wide carton recycling strategies (e.g. setting up dump stations to handle the residual liquid from cartons) will also be created and deployed in all participating schools.

Curriculum Resources for Manitoba Schools

Focus: Recycling Lesson Plans
Timeline: Fall 2019
Location: Manitoba

The Carton Council has partnered with Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM) to develop lesson plans for grades 1-3 and 5-6. The lessons plan teach students the importance of carton recycling using standard-based math, science, and language arts. The activities will allow students to learn how they can have a positive impact on the environment. Although the lesson plans are geared towards a Manitoba audience, they could easily be adapted to other geographies.

The tabs below contain links to PDFs of the lesson plan & worksheets

The Great Carton Search

Focus: School contest
Timeline: October 2018 to May 2019
Location: Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, which has a deposit return system for all beverage containers (including milk), students were encouraged to recycle those containers, especially juice and milk cartons, at their schools and in their communities. The CCC sponsored SARCAN Recycling’s contest entitled The Great Carton Search. The Contest was launched concurrently with the launch of a new website – SARCAN School – which enables schools to order recycling bins, set fundraising goals, track progress towards the goals, and informs students about the environmental impact of recycling. A press release pertaining to the initiative is available here.

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Pilot Project on the Recycling of Containers in Schools

Focus: Education, Communications, and On-Site Support
Timeline: Oct. 2018-June 2019
Location: Communauté Métropolitaine de Québec (CMQ) – consists of 28 municipalities in the Quebec City area

This was a CMQ-led pilot project supported by CCC and Recyc-Québec. The not-for-profit organization Quebec’ERE was retained to deliver educational presentations and to provide hands-on support to schools, while the consultancy Chamard Stratégies Environnementales was in charge of waste audits.

The “Don’t trash it” information and awareness campaign aimed to make students aware that, while it’s usually not possible to rinse containers at school, they can be recycled as long as they are empty. A press release announcing the launch of the project in October 2018 is available (in French). Two intervention methods were tested and documented in the ten (10) participating schools:

  • Active method: half of the schools benefited from the presence of on-site facilitators who delivered educational presentations and ‘coached’ them on good recycling practices. These schools also had the opportunity to participate in a contest which asked students to respond to a simple recycling-related question. Answers were deposited in a giant drink box container placed at a strategic location in the school. Prizes consisted of reusable snack pouches.
  • Passive method: the other half of the schools received the same campaign materials (posters, ect) but did not receive the in-person ‘coaching’.

Both groups of schools received additional recycling bins.

At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, waste audits were conducted to measure the effects of this campaign and to determine whether there was a difference in impact based on the two different approaches that were tested. The pilot project report (in French) was presented to the CMQ Board of Directors in mid-November 2019.

Results : The results of the waste audits show that the capture rate of containers significantly increased following the implementation of the pilot project. The average capture rate went from 10.5% in the reference year (either 2014 or 2016) to à 36.2 % in 2019, which represents a 25.7% growth. In particular, the growth in the capture rate is more significant for the primary schools, going from 4.0% to an average of 55% (51.5% growth).

Moreover, the five schools who benefited from the active method performed better, on average, with an average capture rate of 45,7 %, which represents an average increase of 33.7 %.

Lastly, cartons saw a significant rise in their capture rate, in particular in primary schools. For the six participating primary schools, the carton capture rate went from 2.6% in 2014/2016 to 57.1 % in 2019.


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La Tournée Jé&Lou

Focus: Education
Timeline: Jan-Dec. 2018
Location: Quebec (mostly Montreal Greater Area)

We partnered with La communauté du Ballon Rond, an organization specialized in environmental education and in promoting healthy living habits in children and teens in Quebec and became a sponsor of their schools campaign, along with Boisson Gazeuse Environnement, the agency handling the soft-drink deposit system in Quebec. Our sponsorship provided for:

  • The distribution of small recycling bins to schools who requested them
  • The addition of carton recycling content and of a carton-focused hands-on activity as part of a “recycling relay”

The campaign reached about 30,000 primary-level school students in 96 schools. A press release pertaining to the initiative is available (in French) here.

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