Return Recycling was founded by students, and continues to be powered by student energy today. Most often, students are the members of the campus community who have the vision, enthusiasm, and commitment to make change happen - especially in regards to trash. 

As a student, you have the opportunity to push forward projects or programs at your school to increase diversion rates of recycling systems, improve engagement with new composting initiatives, and get your school on board with making big decisions about their waste operations (for example). And Return Recycling can help!

Starting a Waste Characterization Study

Is there something you want to change about the way your school deals with trash?

It could be ineffective signage, contaminated recycling streams, resistance to compost, or so much more. Whatever it is, in order to change your trash, you have to know your trash. For that reason, waste characterizations (also called waste audits) are helpful and informative tools to help gather the knowledge and data you need to inform your new initiative.

The Return Recycling Team made out start by digging through trash, and we want to help you do the same (fo' free)!

We've developed a variety of resources, including our waste characterization app, The Collective, to help students like you conduct waste characterizations. 

To learn more about planning, conducting, and putting to use a successful waste characterization study, check out our

Sorting Manual + Best Practices Guide

The Guide will help you figure out what you need to know before planning a waste characterization, how to get through the trash digging part, and what to do once you have your data and want to make your big moves. 

Other Ways to Make Change

  1. Start a working group!

    There's power in numbers! Get together a group of friends or fellow garbage geeks and start making a list of what your school's gotta do to get its waste systems up to snuff. Start making recommendations - write official-looking letters to your president and high-up administrators, complete with a logo and letterhead and signed "The Student Waste Task Force of [insert school here]." If you believe you're official, they'll believe it.
  2. Enlighten your peers!

    No matter the power of policy and infrastructural change, there's got to be a level of education involved in the process. Students have an awesome power of reaching other students - so use it! Hold tabling events, street fairs, informational panels, field trips to recycling plants, trash hackathons, and so on and so forth until you've convinced everyone you meet that zero waste is their #1 priority! (Or at least, on their list.)