One Cool Earth Zero Waste: How To Start School Waste Sorting Stations

This video, created by One Cool Earth with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, walks through an easy way to help your school reduce waste: organizing waste stations! This strategy guides students in sorting different types of lunchroom waste, including landfill trash, recyclable materials, organic waste, and more. Waste stations help reduce debris by maximizing recycling and composting, while also helping students understand the importance of disposing of their waste responsibly. 

Learn more about this project here, or check out One Cool Earth’s other videos on their website.




A waste sorting station is a lineup of cans in the lunch area where students can dispose of their waste.


The green team stands at the waste sorting station and helps instruct kids on which things go in each can. Some schools start with three cans, but other schools have four, five, or six even. 

The blue one is for recycling. We can put clean paper, clean plastic, clean metal, and clean glass in here.


The orange one is for worm compost or vermicompost. Worms love to eat fruit and vegetable scraps.


The gray one goes to the landfill. This is where we put all ooey gooey stuff: milk cartons and styrofoam trays.


Some schools also have a green can where they can put all of their food scraps to be composted off-site.


Other schools also have a bucket with a colander on the top where they can pour the liquid that they didn't drink. Some schools even have a barter bin where the kids can leave the cafeteria foods they didn't eat so hungrier kids can eat them. Keep in mind that if it's out for too long that it needs to be thrown away.


Check with your city's waste hauler to find out what can go in your blue can. Your staff can help out with that. Also remember to thank your custodians and yard duty for being so helpful in this waste sorting process. They are seriously environmental superheroes as well!