Pennsylvania K-12 Students Increase Recycling Awareness

recycleImage by Shirley Hirst

PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP) collaborated on a School Recycling Study Survey that shows that Pennsylvania K-12 students have increased their knowledge and awareness of recycling over the past fiscal year.

“Students are our future, and it is great to see that they are increasing their awareness around recycling. It is incredible that these schools made a commitment to Pennsylvania’s present and future,” Acting DEP Secretary Richard Negrin said.

From July 2021 through June 2022, PROP (with funding from DEP) coordinated the study. This is the second year of the study, which gauges understanding of recycling among students and staff. Schools were asked to complete a brief survey, providing details on their current recycling programs and practices. The survey was sent to 3,770 public and private schools in Pennsylvania.

Of the schools surveyed, 86.6% recycle. Also, 43.5% of the schools surveyed have a recycling awareness program. In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the survey was sent to 2,713 schools with 199 responding. In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, 81.4% of schools responded that they have a recycling program. Some of the questions in the survey include: Does the school recycle? Does your school have a recycling awareness program? Is cost a barrier?

“Student awareness of recycling is a critical step in making sure these students continue to recycle through adulthood,” said PROP Executive Director Jennifer Summers. “Recycling is a cross-generational effort, and it is imperative that we know how our students are faring with their recycling knowledge.”

The summary report also details ways to increase awareness and how schools respond to waste with other methods, like composting. PROP is instrumental in driving student awareness and hosts a yearly poster contest for students.

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“Just as our schools nurture and preserve their students’ futures, so too must our communities nurture and preserve the future of our environment,” said Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “By introducing learners to the importance of recycling, that knowledge can spread, and young minds can be empowered by sharing this critical best practice with their friends, families, and neighbors.”

The next steps include working with individual coordinators with results from their counties and another survey. Another survey will be used to collect more detail about the types of education and training that is needed for the schools. The outcomes of the surveys will result in the creation of tools and resources for schools and school business officials, including web resources.

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