children in a school classroom.
Stats about school waste

School Waste Facts

School isn’t a waste of time, but it is somewhere that can create lots of waste. This includes everything from leftover lunches to old exercise books and broken computers from IT classrooms. Education is resource-heavy, and the waste generated by primary and secondary schools soon stacks up.

Just over nine million pupils attend more than 24,000 schools (including both primary and secondary schools) in the UK. It’s estimated that each school pupil generates between 20 and 45kg of waste every academic year. This means a minimum of 180 million kg of waste could be created by school pupils across the UK annually.

The amount of waste educational facilities produce varies across specific schools and materials. Learn all about how much rubbish they generate with these shocking school waste facts and statistics.

What causes waste in schools?

There are many types of waste and causes in schools across the world. Leftovers are a big cause of food waste in school canteens at lunch time both from pupils who bring packed lunches and those who have school dinners. Preparation waste from the kitchen is also another cause of significant school food waste.

Then there’s all the packaging such as crisp packets, drink bottles, and snack wrappers that get thrown away at break and lunch times. Other packaging waste in schools is caused by deliveries of textbooks, equipment, and other resources. This can lead to lots of empty cardboard boxes and even some wooden pallets from the deliveries.

School toilets must have sanitary waste bins in place to store such unavoidable waste. Cleaning of classrooms, corridors, school halls, and other areas leads to lots of chemical waste that requires responsible management and disposal too. This can include hazardous waste types that the janitor must keep safe.

Materials and resources required for learning create all sorts of waste as well. This includes waste paper from filled exercise books and paint waste from art lessons. Old and broken computers and other IT equipment from the school office form WEEE waste when it’s no longer needed too.

School waste statistics

One thing most of us don’t learn in school is how much waste educational activities, and our lives outside the school walls, generate. This can have a significant environmental impact if rubbish isn’t recycled and managed responsibly. The types and volumes of waste vary between schools, due to their different sizes and ways of working.

We’ve pulled together some top-level stats about waste in schools. Study up on these school waste statistics:

  • Primary schools generate around 45kg of waste per pupil, per academic year
  • Secondary schools produce about 22kg of waste per pupil each academic year
  • More than 70% of school waste is food, paper, and card
  • 80% of waste generated by schools is recyclable but only 20% gets recycled
  • Public schools in the USA create 14,500 tonnes of waste every day
School waste management
child learning in a school lesson.

School paper waste statistics

Paper is still an essential resource in schools despite the modern digital age. Exercise books, handouts, printing, documents, art materials, and classroom displays all cause waste paper in schools. Almost all school paper is recyclable and there should be specific paper bins to separate it at the source in all school classrooms.

Teach yourself something useful with these school paper waste statistics:

  • In one day an average school uses about 2,000 sheets of paper
  • The average school can get through 360,000 sheets of paper in an academic year
  • Pupils may use the equivalent of 250kg of paper in a year
  • Printing in the average UK secondary school uses more than one million pages every year
  • More than 300 black ink toner cartridges are used in the average school annually for all its printing
  • Introducing mandatory double-sided printing in schools would halve printing paper waste
  • It’s estimated that around two-thirds of paper waste in schools could be avoided
  • Half of all paper waste in schools is readily recyclable
How to reduce paper waste in schools

School food waste statistics 

There are many reasons behind food waste in schools, from picky pupils to oversized and extra portions going uneaten, and expired ingredients in the kitchen. Students who bring packed lunches also create waste food when they throw away everything from half a sandwich to an apple core at lunch or break time.

Get your teeth into some more school lunch waste facts and statistics:

  • Primary and secondary schools combined produce 80,382 tonnes of food waste a year
    • Primary schools generate around 55,408 tonnes of food waste in England
    • Secondary schools produce about 24,974 tonnes of waste food in England
  • School food waste costs the education sector £250 million every year
  • Food waste from schools is responsible for about 13% of non-household food waste
  • An average school student wastes 23% of the food served for lunch
  • Vegetables are the most-wasted school lunch item, accounting for around half of all food waste
  • The World Wildlife Fund estimates that in the USA school food waste will reach 530,000 tonnes annually
How to reduce waste at school
kids sat eating in a school canteen.

How should I get rid 
of school waste?

Schools and other educational facilities must arrange the removal of all rubbish produced by licensed waste carriers. This ensures everything from food waste in the canteen to chemical waste from the laboratory is stored, removed, and disposed of safely, legally, and responsibly. Managing school waste must be done properly to avoid disruptions to education.

At Business Waste we can help remove any type and amount of waste from your school anywhere in the UK on a schedule that suits you. We can provide free bins to separate and store food waste, dry mixed recycling, paper waste, and more. There’s no rental or delivery fee – you just pay for collection.

Get a free quote for waste collection from your school today – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online. One of our friendly and expert team can answer any of your questions and provide further information about managing your school waste efficiently.

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