School litter audit


Conducting a litter audit is a big step in helping your school become more sustainable by evaluating and reducing the amount of litter your school leaves in the natural environment.

If students find out how much litter is in and around school grounds, targets can be set and you have a ‘baseline’ for measuring change.

Addressing litter supports the school curriculum sustainability priority and it encourages students to become engaged, active members of the community.


Step 1:     Conduct a litter collection 

Step 2:     Evaluate

  • What is the most common type of litter in your school?
  • Why do you think this is the most common type of litter in your school?
  • Is litter from your school making its way outside your school grounds?
  • Did any litter items come from another source e.g. a nearby business?
  • What can you do to encourage them to change and reduce this litter?

Step 3:     Make a plan of action

  • What can you do to stop your litter?
  • What alternatives are there?
  • What are your goals?
  • What will you tackle first? Pick one item to tackle at a time!
  • How do you want to achieve this?
    • When?
  • Who do you need to support this?
  • Source alternatives for your lunches, classrooms, canteen and office.
  • How do you get students, staff and parents on board?

Step 4:     Take the challenge! Make a pledge!

  • Plastic Free July
  • No waste November
  • Clean Up Australia
  • Take 3 for the Sea
  • Implement a Nude Food Day or simply pledge to Choose to Reuse!

Step 5:     Learn more & share – get ideas and inspiration from these lesson plans and useful websites. See links below.

How to conduct a litter audit

The first step in reducing litter is to understand how much you are currently generating. This provides a baseline for measuring your success and impact for both students and staff.

A school litter audit is a great way to see how much plastic waste you generate in your classroom, school or playground. You can opt for a comprehensive audit, weighing all the rubbish or go for a simple audit and just count the number of items.

What you need 

What to do 

  1. Spread the litter onto the sheet or tarpaulin.
  2. Separate it into different categories: food/compostables, cardboard & paper, metal, soft and hard plastics.
  3. Separate plastics into types e.g. bottles, containers, cling film, single-use types (e.g. straws, lollipop sticks), food packets etc.
  4. Weigh or count the number of pieces in each group.
  5. Write down weights or counts in the audit record sheet provided.

Finding the source 

Examine all of the items in the plastics category and see how many of each type were collected.

  • What has come from within the school (e.g. from canteen items), or from home/lunchboxes?
  • Did any come from outside your school?
  • How much of this is single-use?
  • Think about how to reduce these items. Are there alternatives? What could be reused?

Make sure you carry out the audit again next month or term to measure the success of your chosen solutions.

Celebrate the impact no matter how small and keep the momentum going.

Lesson plans & useful websites

Curriculum based lesson plans

KESAB are a peak body for litter reduction and environmental sustainability in South Australia. They offer a range of school resources and programs.

COOL Australia has many different resources available for purchase and download.

Nude Food Day is a worldwide initiative developed to encourage kids and parents to eat well and live well and eliminate all unnecessary packaging and wrapping that goes into schools.

Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens helps students learn healthy food habits through engaging hands on food education. Growing your own food means no plastic packaging!

Eco-Schools Australia offers an environmental education framework promoting learning for a sustainable Australia.

Tangaroa Blue is the leading marine debris organisation in Australia. They have a full education kit for years Foundation K-3 and Upper primary years 4-6 to teach children about marine debris – what is it, why is it a problem and what can be done about it.

Useful Websites

Keep Australia Beautiful run a range of local and national programs designed to educate and inspire Australians to take action on sustainability and litter.

Plastic Free July a global movement to trial refusing single-use plastics for a month, full of great tips and how to’s, practical advice on where to start on this journey.
Register as a school or an individual here.

Tangaroa Blue are founders of the Australian Marine Debris Initiative, a network dedicated to the removal and prevention of marine debris. Find lots of resources or adopt-a-beach.

Take 3 run school education and support to reduce marine debris through action in the school.

Clean Up Australia coordinate Clean Up Australia Day and supports plastic free living and waste reduction initiatives.

Nude Food Day helps students reduce packaging in their lunches. Usually runs over the month of October.

Green Adelaide partner with the community, schools, businesses and government to deliver nature education that builds upon existing activities and programs.

Surfrider Foundation are a registered not for profit sea-roots organisation dedicated to the protection of Australia’s waves and beaches through Conservation, Activism, Research and Education or C.A.R.E.

Boomerang Alliance is an alliance of a variety of environmental groups supporting init9iatives to clean-up our community

Boomerang Bags is a community driven initiative tackling plastic pollution at the grassroots level. Your school may wish to help sew bags, cut fabric, craft timber display boxes or host a sewing bee.

Sea Shepherd this high-profile direct action conservation group runs beach clean ups through local chapters.

SLO Active clearly explains the problem and extent of marine debris, as well as offering simple solutions.