ZWD Education Strategy

The Zero Waste Town Dunbar project was designed around three interlinking strategies.



  1. The practical strategy:

 We aimed to:

  • provide our 6 schools with the infrastructure and services they needed to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible; and,
  • facilitate a number of waste reducing initiatives and events to demonstrate ways our schools can reduce, reuse and recycle their waste.
  1. The curriculum strategy:

 We aimed to:

  • create projects linked to each school’s curriculum in order to demonstrate how children’s entitlement to Learning for Sustainability can be achieved through learning about Scotland’s Zero Waste agenda;
  • link with the inspiration strategy to produce creative cross curricular learning projects; and,
  • offer free training to teachers on Learning for Sustainability to help support them to implement more elements of LFS into their practice and to ensure a zero waste legacy.
  1. The inspiration strategy.

We aimed to:

  • explore ways to engage young people in reducing, reusing and recycling waste which would truly inspire them and get them to see waste as a resource; and,
  • develop creative techniques and approaches to learn about concepts such as circular economy, create long terms links with the community with intergenerational links.


The Practical Strategy: outcomes

 Our starting point:

In 2015 our 6 schools had limited recycling infrastructure and systems in place for mixed waste, paper and card.

What we achieved:

By March 2017 we had enabled our 6 schools (one of which managed by a private company) to achieve;

  • food waste capture and pick up service. Capture bins were provided inside and outside the schools to enable pupils to separate their food waste easily;
  • full recycling infrastructure and systems;
  • education with the pupils on how to use the new infrastructure.
  • waste audits to enable all to gain a better understanding of what was in their waste and which waste streams could be reduced.
  • action plans were developed with each school outlining the findings and recommendations for how to tackle different waste streams.
  • follow up waste audits and action plans after year one to access the progress that had been made and to assist the schools to address waste reduction in the future.
  • waste reducing initiatives such as:

Go Zero Challenge with pupils class rooms and households which involved a pledge to make specific waste reductions for a year. This had three levels of pledge depending on how deeply a householder wanted to go into waste reduction;

The Pupil Pledge specifically designed for primary children to make their own pledge about their own waste, asked them to try to do 5 things for a month; and

Swap shops at schools for toy, games and book .

What we learned

Waste audits are a ‘must do’ activity and were the most effective tool in our practical education strategy and essential to engaging schools to gain a better understanding of what their waste streams were and to enable them to take action.

The waste audits highlighted similar trends and waste streams (with just a few small specific differences) between schools.  We suspect these trends will be replicated across Scotland and that our waste audit data will assist anyone wanting to work to reduce waste in schools in the future.

The trends we discovered include;

  • Food waste is the biggest weight waste stream in all schools, be it primary or secondary. If it isn’t collected for recycling it will be the largest issue a school faces with waste going to landfill but even if it is it will still represent a waste stream which needs to be addressed in order to reduce it. This food waste comes from lunchtime but also the fruit and milk pupils have in class. Plastic which cannot be recycled,
  • Paper towels, Tetrapacs used for daily milk and liquids from waste liquids are also significant waste streams found in most primary school waste streams. Crisp packets and sweet wrappers, though not a lot weight, are also a specific waste stream that schools all seem to have. Specific projects to target these waste streams would be very beneficial to schools.
  • Secondary schools often have more waste items which can be recycled like plastic bottles and drinks cans.
  • Secondary schools also have specific waste streams from departments like home economics and design and technology departments which cause significant waste in addition to normal waste streams and this is often overlooked.

It is vital to know what the starting points are and who is responsible or involved in the practical waste infrastructure of a school. In Scotland many schools have many departments, businesses and organisations which must work together to deal with the waste. Secondary schools are especially complicated and many are run by private companies. This can mean that schools may not have any recycling infrastructure because the local authority is not involved in the maintenance of the school’s grounds and waste onsite in the same way as in most primaries.

School kitchens: the education department and waste services are often also run by a separate parts of a council and they often work in isolation from one another so you cannot assume that working with one department is enough to ensure everyone is informed or agrees to a change. Knowing who all these organisations are before you begin to tackle anything is vital and good communication and productive collaborative working relationships between all involved is key to the effectiveness of implementing change.

Don’t under estimate the work, time and funds required to gather baseline data and implement full recycling infrastructure. We had some amazing support from nearly everyone we worked with and yet it took more time than we anticipated to achieve the practical objectives and we faced many barriers. ELC was especially supportive of this project and has gone the extra mile to ensure we could achieve the things we had hoped to do. However, the complexity of the logistics and aligning systems took up most of our time. Because a realistic staring point had not been assessed in the application stage of the ZWD project we had to alter our plans to accommodate realities as we went along.

The time it took to implement the practical strategy impacted the time we had for our curriculum strategy. We had hoped to have more curriculum linked projects and to assist the schools more with underpinning their entire curriculum with Learning for Sustainability linked to the waste agenda but our priority became ensuring we could get recycling infrastructure and systems in all our schools as the foundation for their learning about the 3 Rs.

We experienced it was much easier to involve the primary school age children in the practical strategy than it was secondary age pupils. Social aspects like how ‘cool’ something is or how you are being seen by others if you comply to authority by adhering to new recycling changes influenced some older children’s behaviour.

Different strategies needed to be employed with different age groups to try and widen engagement.  Much more input was necessary in the secondary school to implement infrastructure and systems than the primary schools.

Having good relationships with the schools and being sure all schools are happy to be involved in the project from the outset was vital. The Climate Challenge project prior to this project had already established good relationships and the schools in the area and they were ready to support this project from the beginning. This significantly helped the project achieve the objectives we set ourselves and all the schools made waste reductions as a result.

All the schools managed to reduce their waste from between 13-88% (within a year) with the average reduction being 47 % . Table 1 below gives more detail on the impact of the practical strategy in schools to the waste going to landfill.  The biggest waste reductions came from the food waste service commencing however schools are still getting used to this and some food waste like fruit from snacks, food from packed lunches or food in the staff room is not always getting into the food recycling as yet. More savings can be made as the schools become more confident that they can separate and capture all food waste.

The next biggest impact in waste reduction came from the schools increasing their uptake of recycling from making more use of the expanded recycling service. The effectiveness of this differed from school to school depending on many factors (and two waste audits are not enough to fully comment on what these are as they only show a snap shot of how a school is using the recycling service they have) but in general the more efficient the ‘in school’ system is, the more a school is generally able to recycle.

What schools need is practical support to help them assess what their waste is and to get the infrastructure and systems in place to make change.

Table 1 Waste going to landfill from the school in the ward on the days of the two audits.

School 2016 base line waste audit 2017 waste audit Approximate % waste decrease  going to landfill between the two waste audits. Approx. figure for how much waste will be saved from going to landfill per year as compared to the start of the project based on these figures.
Stenton Primary 4.97 KG 0.57 KG 88.53% 4.97- 0.57=4.4KG

X 5 days week=22 KG x 36 weeks per year=792 KG

Innerwick Primary 12.675 KG 2.5 KG 80.28% 12.675-2.5=10.175 x5=50.875 x 36=1,831.5 KG
East Linton Primary







31.85 KG

Food prep waste was accidentally put in the wrong bin but if the food waste was removed as it will be in the future the amount would have been

19.15 KG


Without the food waste which  now can be recycled at the school the decrease should be approximately





Dunbar Primary:

John Muir Campus


Lochend Campus


129 KG


68.62 KG


63.1 KG


42.15 KG





129-63.1=65.9 X5=329.5 X 36=


68.62-42.15=26.47×5=132.35 x 36=4,764.6KG

West Barns Primary 12.86 KG 5.95 KG 53.73 % 12.91-5.95=6.91 x5=34.55 x 36=1,243.8
Dunbar Grammar School 91.5KG 56.85KG 37.87% 91.5-56.85=34.65X5=173.25 X 36=6,237KG
Average=52.45% 30,198.6 KG

The curriculum and
Inspirational strategies: Outcomes

 Our starting point:

Zero Waste leaning was limited to learning about litter in most of our schools and as part of their Green Flag attainment process.

What we achieved:

The curriculum and Inspirational strategy worked in tandem with one another and we were able to provide collaboration and support from the project with at least one curriculum linked project at each school but in some cases there were more. These projects tried to have an inspirational element to them which sought to bring the waste agenda to pupils in new creative ways which moved away from just talking about bins and recycling. Many different techniques and technologies were used to do this and where possible cross curricular links were used and the learning was implemented to link with the children’s entitlement to Learning for Sustainability to make the collaboration of more benefit to the school and the pupils.

The schools were also all offered free teacher training to support the staff to gain a deeper understanding of Learning for Sustainability (LFS) as this project decided to link the waste agenda to the pupil’s entitlement to LFS as it was felt that this would be of most use to the schools. Four schools took up the option of the training. (4)

Alongside this there were a number of initiatives to reduce waste as part of the practical strategy such as the Pupil Pledge and toy and book swaps and some of these were also linked to curriculum learning by the schools. The project was also able to support some schools to work towards their Eco School Green Flags.  (12)

The Project also provided £1000 for 3 schools to use towards creating a Play Pod which would be stocked with items which would have gone to waste for children to use during break times for creative play and outdoor learning and team work. £1500 was also given to Dunbar Primary to use for a play pod or their chicken coop.

The follwing next sections document the curriculum and inspirational elements of the ZWD education programme, what happened at each of our 6 schools and the lessons we learned.