What is 'Plastic Free Schools?' 

A global community of schools, colleges and universities working to reduce their plastic footprint.

Plastic Free Schools is a program that aims to measurably reduce plastic pollution on school campuses around the world, with a special focus on the reduction and ultimately the elimination of plastic bottles, plastic straws and utensils, and plastic food packaging. Participating schools have identified plastic pollution as a key concern on their campuses, and are taking action to confront the problem. This means different things for different schools, from hosting a plastic-free sporting event, to ending bottled water sales across the campus. Any school or student group with the intention of fighting plastic pollution is eligible to join.

Are you interested in joining the project? Here's how to start.


Learn in the classroom, conduct a peer education campaign, or bring in outside presenters. A brief summary of plastic pollution, myths and common misconceptions could be found here on this site. More in-depth information, including news stories and peer-reviewed articles, can be found at the Plastic Free Times website.   

Understand exactly what items contribute to plastic pollution. Before you get the student body involved, educate yourself on what are the greatest contributors. Many items in your backpack or in the classroom are made of disposable plastic. These items are the real problem, and the greatest contributors to plastic pollution. They include plastic straws, plastic bottles, plastic utensils, plastic cups, plastic wrapping for your sandwiches, and the list goes on.


Get a team together, including peers, educators, and administrators. To really address the problem, you’ll need peers to help spread the word, teachers to provide help along the way, and campus administrators that are willing to listen and ready to make policy changes.

Share what you have learned. A great start is the one-sheet you can download.


Find out how much and what kind of disposable plastic your school uses in a year, a month, or a day. This is your school's plastic footprint. Understanding your campus' plastic program is the key to change, because it will help focus your efforts on the biggest problems, and you may be surprised by what you find.

The plastic footprint accounts for items that are regularly thrown into the garbage or recycling bin, including plastic bottles and cups, polystyrene cups, containers and trays, plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic baggies and food wrap, and other food packaging. Finding out how much plastic your campus goes through can be hard, but you may be able to measure it through surveys, trash audits, or working with your school's appropriations department that determines what items to buy. 


Take on the biggest contributors to your campus' plastic footprint, and set a goal for reduction.

Create a plan that includes the following areas:

The problem. Explain the most common sources of plastic pollution at your school, including approximate quantities consumed per week;

The path to education. Distribute outreach materials to the student body, and a plan to expand the use of alternatives;

The solution. Define your reduction targets, including a timeline, a strategy for getting the students engaged, and a description of how you’ll measure your progress.   

Future plans. Expand your reduction targets beyond the first year’s plan. 

You can download the Plastic-Free Campus Manual in English or in Spanish to get you started. The guide is a collaboration between PPC and PLAN (Post Landfill Action Network), a network of zero-waste student groups on college campuses that are pushing for plastic-free alternatives.

Contact us at schools@plasticpollutioncoalition.org with any questions.