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Cutting the Paper Waste
The 3Rs of Paper

Schools use a lot of paper and this amount is increasing yearly in most schools. An audit of WA schools showed that paper and cardboard make up over 1/3 of school waste. In Victoria, surveys by the Department of Employment, Education and Training indicate that paper use increased by 92% in primary schools from 1989 to 1995 and 34% for secondary schools for the same period.

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By applying The 3Rs of Paper – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, schools can significantly cut the amount of paper used by the school and the volume of waste going to landfill. This will lead to savings for the school in:

- waste collection costs
- the cost of buying paper in the first place
- photocopying costs

The 3Rs of Paper will also have other benefits, including:

- links with the curriculum and a wider Waste Wise program
- helps students develop environmental responsibility and leadership skills
- achieves a school sense of achievement
- provides local action with a global perspective

Case Study 1 – Clayton North Primary School

In 1994, Clayton North Primary School embarked on a waste reduction program. From a waste audit conducted by students, it was clear that paper and food scraps were making a large contribution to the garbage produced by the school.

The school adopted a number of waste minimisation measures. It introduced worm composting and paper recycling as well as implementing some simple but effective paper reduction actions. Some of the paper reduction measures were:

- double-sided photocopying
- making jotter pads from paper used on one side
- not photocopying 10% extra for each class

The combination of all these changes has led to a waste reduction for the school of more than 70%. This has saved the school more than $900 in waste disposal costs and cut paper purchasing costs by 7-10%.

Steps to Cut Your School’s Paper Waste

1. Complete an audit of your school’s paper use and waste
Audits are to determine how much paper is being used by the school and how much of the school’s garbage is paper. The results are benchmarks against which future changes can be compared. You will need to check the school’s records for the amount of paper used. Guidelines for conducting a waste audit can be found in The Waste Wise Way.

2. Develop a paper action plan
Form a planning group, including students. Use the hints on the following two pages to prepare a list of actions for both the short-term and long-term. Communicate this plan to the rest of the school. Involve the whole school community, especially the students.

3. Set some realistic targets and timelines
Realistic targets and timelines will be goals to work towards. Assign responsibilities to groups or individuals to ensure that things get done. For example:

• Cut our paper use by 10% in the next twelve months.
• Set up a paper recycling system by the end of Term 4.

4. Implement your plan
Implement your plan and promote what is being done. You could use a special event to launch the program.

5. Monitor your paper use, garbage production and paper / cardboard recycling
Monitor your records of paper use and the amount recycled. Record any changes to the total amount of garbage collected each week. Give regular feedback to the rest of the school, informing them of any improvement and savings. Feature this information in the school newsletter, notice board and even the local paper.

Case Study 2 – Rutherglen Primary School

In 1998, Rutherglen Primary School, a small rural primary school of about 200 students, used two pallets, or 400 reams, of photocopy paper, at a cost of about $2,200 (about 1000 sheets of paper per student). In 1999, the school developed a simple paper reduction strategy as part of a wider Waste Wise School program. This paper reduction strategy is reprinted below.

When the school started the program, they aimed to cut their paper use by about 10%. However, the strategy proved to be so successful, that the school cut their paper use by half, using only one pallet of paper (200 reams) for the year. The school estimated that this saved $1,100 in photocopy paper costs and a further $1,300 in savings in the cost of running and maintaining the school’s photocopier, a total for the year of $2,400. This figure would be even higher if the savings in electricity for the photocopier were also considered.

Waste Wise Paper Saving Strategies

  • Double side everything (even if it means planning in advance).
  • Use the chalkboard and whiteboard.
  • Use 1 worksheet between 2 and do the work in books.
  • Plan curriculum content and share worksheets within faculties.
  • Recollect and store worksheets for reuse at another time.
  • Minimal sheets per co-operative work group.
  • Have the children use their workbooks more often.
  • Use all unwanted paper to make notepads.
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