OBJECTIVE: The students will identify recycling as an alternative to disposal of paper. A method for determining the cost-effectiveness of a recycling program will be described.

RESOURCES: Bathroom or other scale, calculator, classroom wastebasket, paper grocery bags or cardboard boxes, telephone directory, telephone.


1. Ask the class to separate paper items from other classroom disposables for one week, segregating them into a suitable collection container. Label the collection container "Recyclable Paper."

2. Discuss with the class ways in which the collected paper might be re-used in the classroom. Are there other uses for the paper in the school?

3. Weigh the paper after one week's collection. Project the weight of paper that might be collected in a month's time, a semester, the school year. Multiply the projected weights by the number of other classrooms in the school. Convert the figures to tons for results greater than 2,000 lbs. Record the projections.

4. Consult the yellow pages of the telephone directory for the location of a scrap paper market (see "scrap dealers" or "scrap metals"). Contact the scrap paper markets to determine preparation requirements and prices paid for various grades of paper, including mixed ledger (office quality) paper, newsprint, computer paper, corrugated cardboard, mixed wastepaper, and magazines. Determine whether there is a market for the paper collected in the classroom. Inquire whether the scrap paper dealer will provide transportation of the recycled paper.

5. What is the current value of the paper collected in the classroom? Would separating the paper into two or more market grades improve its value? If transportation is not provided by the scrap paper dealer, what will it cost to transport the paper to market?

6. Determine whether the recycling effort could be cost-effective on a classroom basis. Compare potential revenues from the sale of the recycled paper to the costs to collect and transport the paper to market. Would it be be cost- effective if all the paper discarded in the school could be recycled?

7. Consider the disposal cost avoided if the paper is recycled rather than disposed. Contact the disposal service that collects the school's waste to determine the cost per ton of collection and disposal. Could the "avoided disposal cost" savings improve the cost-effectiveness of the paper recycling effort? (Each ton recycled is one ton less to be disposed.) Could the school save money by recycling paper?

8. Discuss the findings with the class and the school principal. Publicize the results of the study in the school newspaper.

9. The Pennsylvania Resources Council can provide a comprehensive informational pamphlet to schools interested in developing a recycling program. Write or call for:

"Recycling in Schools"
Pennsylvania Resources Council
3606 Providence Road
Newtown Square, PA 19073

Paper Recycling Cost-Effectiveness

[weight of paper X scrap price] minus [collection cost + transportation cost] = paper value

weight of paper X [waste collection cost + waste disposal cost] = avoided disposal cost

paper value + avoided disposal cost = paper recycling cost-effectiveness

(note: units of weight and value must be consistent)

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