Why food composting can save Westchester’s taxpayer money, big time!

Food waste is around 40% of all waste from households, it is made up of mainly water, thus it is heavy. Garbage cost is calculated by weight. So all this water is costing the tax payer dearly.

Westchester’s garbage is being collected by the municipalities, brought to one of the several transfer stations within the county and from there it is transported in big trucks to the incinerator in Peekskill.

So basically, we are using fossil fuels  (garbage trucks get about 2.6 miles per gallon of diesel fuel) to truck water 50 miles north?

The far better solution would be to sort out all that water laden food waste and actually compost it.  Combine food waste with yard waste and  nature will give us black gold, aka compost.

The absolute best way is to do it right at home. Solon-Compost-Bin-4Have a little bin next to your sink and sort out all your food waste (no bones or meats though, home composters can’t handle that, commercial ones can)

And place that food waste in a ratio of 1 food waste to 3 leaves or woodchips into a composter. It can be a home made one, compost-4-940x626

or a commercially available one like these. And the rest is done by mother nature. Turning the mixture once in a while will introduce oxygen and thus help the bacteria to do a more efficient job. Earth_Machine_close

A few weeks later you will have lovely compost that can be used in your garden.

Most people are afraid that composting will be smelly or attract rodents. With all in life, if it is done right, there is none of that.

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Fruit Trays and other compostable cardboards no longer recyclable as paper, should be composted

Since January 1st 2018, China implemented the Chinese Green Sword which governs what recyclables China is still buying. These much stricter rules came with a one year warning but still, most US Recycling Centers (or Material Recovery Facility -MRF) did not really change their ways in anticipation of these guidelines.

January 2018 came and to the big surprise of many material recovery facilities, Chinese buyers swooped upon them, armed with red spray cans, walking the storage facilities and getting a work out putting large red Xs onto bales to mark them as rejected.

It created a huge problem because of a sudden revenue drop up to 60 to 70% for the facilities in addition to the problem of now making a painful choice.  What to do with the rejected recyclables? Trash the material, or to slow the sorting line and run it through again? Not only did the re-sorting costs more money, the value of the material was severely depressed by up to 56%, leaving many smaller facilities only the option to close their doors and to default on their contractual obligations with the communities they served.

China mandates now that recyclables have to be 98% contamination free. If buyers just see 3 or 4 items on the outside that are not correct, they will reject that bale. Buyers also put out a list of materials that customarily people would identify as recyclable such as the blue fruit trays. These should not go into paper anymore, but rather into composting.

Here are some things that China has banned as part of paper recycling

  1. compostable pulp trays such school lunch trays and fruit trays
  2. cardboard with excessive plastic tape on it
  3. mixed paper with cardboard

And here are some of the household recyclables that China has banned

  1. all #3 to #7 plastics

Westchester County’s MRF is working diligently with these new parameters and because it is a dual stream facility and requires its residents to separate paper from commingled in the houses, the sorted bales are much cleaner and in 2018 , Westchester was able to actually pass on ALL of their recyclables to industry. Revenue is lower by 23% but that is much better than the nations average of a 56% reduction.

This Chinese Sword is hopefully a blessing in disguise because it will put pressure on local industry to find ways to keep recycling locally, to find innovative new outlets for sorted materials and to grow solutions to make materials circular.

There are already many small scale solutions such as textiles made into insulation, milk cartons into insulation, plastics into streets, plastics into building materials, plastics into liquefied fuel, oysters shells into coral reefs, bread ends into beer, plastic bags into insulation and matting, paper into wall coverings. The possibilities are endless but these kind of solutions can only bubble up to the top, when garbage is not cheap anymore.

 

Rye MS students create Recycling Artwork to keep sorting motivation high

Rye Middle School launched the We Future Cycle sorting program in their lunchroom on October 29, 2019.  Sorting is now the new normal for these students.
The results of the first week were amazing:  out of a total of 725 pounds of total waste coming out of the lunchroom, 700 pounds was diverted into recyclable and compostable streams.  They realized a 97% reduction in the amount of trash produced!
After 4 months, We Future Cycle  conducted an audit of the RMS lunchroom and the results have been consistent…RMS realizes a 97% daily reduction in the amount of trash produced!  Great job RMS!!
Rye Middle School Science teacher John Borchert has been a steady supporter of WFC’s recycling efforts.  Thank you!

For years, he and colleague John Griffin have recycled plastic water bottles to support a school garden.  After the WFC sorting began in the lunchroom, his students, Lila Byrne and Natalie MacDonald, added this amazing turtle to the sorting station to help call attention to the animals that are effected as a consequence of our actions.

The girls created the turtle’s interior out of plastic bags covered by homemade paper cache and made the shell out of water bottle caps.  They even added a great fact sheet: “Problems Facing Turtles Today and How You Can Help”.  Fantastic job girls!!!
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Rye MS Cookies are Now Bag-free to Reduce Plastic Waste!

Rye Middle School has been sorting in their lunchroom for 5 months.

They are doing a fantastic job, decreasing the output of trash by 97%.

This has made the students very environmentally aware and they have embraced the spirit of the WFC recycling program.  After realizing that soft plastics are the only items coming out of the lunchroom that cannot be recycled, students Jack Acciavatti, Trevor Reno, and Caleb Tuckman took it upon themselves to get their food service to make a huge change.

 

Before their intervention, cookies were put in plastic bags and tied with plastic twists.   The boys noticed that the plastic bags and twists made up a huge portion of the items in the trash, and approached RMS principal, Ann Edwards, to change this.  Their efforts resulted in cookies being offered in a case without any plastic wrapping!

Great thinking boys… you have made a huge difference!

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Rye MS creative usage of unrecyclable chip bags !

Rye Middle School teachers have embraced the WFC sorting program in their school.  Chip bags are one of the soft plastic items that cannot be recycled and end up in the trash!

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But, teacher Julianne Corbalis has found a solution to this problem.  She collects chip bags and uses them to create guitar straps! The picture shows the beginning of one.

 

Science teacher John Borchert got into the act by using chip bags to make a garland.

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Great way to upcycle these difficult soft plastics…awesome job!

New Rochelle State of the City Speech by Mayor Bramson is going Waste Free

We Future Cycle has been for years working in the New Rochelle School District to bring environmental education and source separation to each of the 10 school buildings, reaching 11,500 students. And now, we are also hired by the City to bring these programs to City wide events. Kick off was the annual State of the City address on March 20th in the rotunda at City Hall.

The space was lined with tables laden with delicious sample foods highlighting New Rochelle restaurant. Becoming Zero Waste means to control what kind of packaging and plates and flatware is used. The equation is easy, what goes in, must come back out. Anna Giordano, Executive Director of We Future Cycle was working closely with the Mayor’s office to guide vendors toward choosing compostable alternatives to serve their delicious samples to the bustling crowd. Tooth picks and paper boats was an all compostable way of feeding people

Showing off alternatives while educating patrons about how simple separation of compostable material from recyclable ones can reduce garbage by over 90%. And people participated with gusto.

Instead of the regular 6 bags of garbage, we only had 2 bags of food waste for compost and 2 bags of commingled for recycling, barely a handful of non recyclable materials ended up in the trash can. Custodial staff was quite surprised and Mayor Bramson gave a beautiful shout out to We Future Cycle, recognizing our tireless effort to bringing more sustainable practices to these kind of events.

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Compost and Recycling (only temporarily in a black bag)

White Plains Church St Elementary Students scavenge through environmental information

We Future Cycle had the pleasure of taking 4th and 5th grade students of Church St. Elementary School in White Plains on an environmental Scavenger Hunt during indoor recess.  unnamed
The interest of the kids was immediately piqued by our colorful “Did you know?” posters.  The posters are filled with many details about our impact on the environment including how Westchester County disposes of all of our waste, the effect of plastics on our environment and effects of processing of aluminum.
The students would scavenge through all of the information on the posters and find the clues needed to complete a questionnaire. They were eager participants and very proud to be able to find the answers.
Asked at the end of the activity if they learned anything new, every participant answered with a resounding “YES!”.  All in all a great success…the kids had a lot of fun while learning a great deal.

New Rochelle Ward Green Team makes recycling posters to educate the whole school

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New Rochelle Ward Elementary school has a bustling green team, comprised of 35 3rd, 4th and 5th graders under the leadership of the Science teacher David Nodiff. It is a coveted position to be part of the green team and students actually have to write an essay at the beginning of the year to become part of it and not every applicant makes it.

Lunchroom recycling station helpers are members of the green team and they make sure that K and 1 students are sorting correctly. With great pride, gloves and a badge around their neck, they are making sure all material goes into the correct bin.

In order to help with the classroom and building wide recycling system, the green team decided to make a series of posters explaining some of the trickier details to the whole school through captive audience education. On stairs, where students are often lined up in an orderly fashion, with some delays if there is “traffic”, students tend to look around and Green Team students have now strategically placed information posters at these locations.

And it is working!

Students now know that only hard plastic items go into the green commingled bins. Soft plastic items like wrappers or baggies go into the trash. All paper and cardboard can go into the blue bin for paper recycling.

Thank you Ward Green Team for educating the whole school community!