The Myth of Compostable Flatware

Check out this so called “compostable” spoon. This is after it has been in my active compost heap for over a year. No decomposition signs AT ALL, just as hard, shiny and sturdy as before. So why are they even called “compostable”?

These things are sold as disposable and bio degradable, but at least in my compost pile absolutely nothing happened to the material.  They are expensive and people are willing to spend the extra money because they want to do the right thing. It’s a $30 million  business.

Manufactures claim they will break down completely, but the fine print on the package outlines that only in commercial composting facility it might be the case.

Talking to operators of commercial composting facility offers a different picture though.

Alisha McCutheon runs the composting facility. She says a lot of her customers don’t know most facilities can’t accept bio-plastics. So, they’re in the mix.

“Thin things like bio-bags break down pretty readily,” says McCutheon. “Things like spudware, potato cutlery, forks and knives made out of cornstarch — they almost don’t break down at all.”

McCutheon points to a large pile of debris. It’s the leftovers — even a nerf football — that didn’t break down after five months of composting.

She picks up a compostable spoon and dusts it off. She says all the leftovers – including the spoon — are now on the way to the trash.

And, that’s not good news for the environment. And not good news for the customer that paid big money for wanting to do the right thing.

 

 

 

White Plains School Mom: “We are making changes to make a difference”

I am a mom in the George Washington Elementary School community in White Plains.

I went into my son’s classroom to hear We Future Cycle educate our children about the school’s new recycling program.  I was excited and inspired by the potential positive impact our children and families could have on our local environment.

I always considered our family fairly environmentally conscious but I didn’t realize how huge of an impact our family could have by making a few more small changes at home.After participating in the launch of the new recycling program at school, our family stopped buying paper towels, paper napkins, plastic wrap, and resealable plastic w610_fc-assorted2 bags.  We now use only cloths and reusable glass and plastic food storage containers.  We have also bumped up our contributions to our backyard compost pile and paid even more attention to what we can recycle curbside here in White Plains.  We are hoping that other families have been inspired as well and that together we can be a part of the solution.

We Future Cycle Trains Rye Midland Elementary School Incoming K-Students To Recycle

Midland Elementary School in Rye began its second year of the We Future Cycle sorting, recycling and composting program. We Future Cycle was happy to return to Midland this Fall to help teach the incoming kindergartners to sort their lunch waste.

Since kicking off the program in February 2016, Midland has diverted nearly 10 TONS of recyclable and compostable material from the trash based on their 97% rate in trash reduction. The benefits of proper source separation add up so quickly, contributing to an enormous positive impact on our environment.
Midland continues to have great support from the PTO, which has helped to keep this program on track by organizing many parents to monitor the process at lunch in the first few “back to school” weeks. The support from Principal Jim Boylan, Assistant Principal Joanna Napolitano, and the Midland aides and custodial team has also been invaluable to sustain the enthusiasm and smooth operations in the lunchroom.  Their efforts provide continuity by insuring that all students remember how to sort and the importance of reducing their waste.

White Plains Eastview Middle School Joins We Future Cycle Program

A big shout out to White Plains’ Eastview Middle School Principal Joseph Cloherty who boldy went where no-one has gone before. Right on day one of the school year 2016-17 he had his incoming 6th graders sort their waste for the first time using the We Future Cycle Lunchroom Recycling Program.

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Principal Cloherty knew that consistency and continuity are important lessons to learn, as 3/5th of his incoming student body was coming from White Plains elementary schools which already run the We Future Cycle program: Ridgeway, Church St and Post Rd.

Eastview Middle School is for 6th graders alone, and it is under construction right now with wonderful upgrades in the making, but not quite finished yet.  So, adding to the challenges of being in a new building and learning the new recycling system on Day One of school, students were also dealing with an unfinished cafeteria that was serving packaged box lunches, instead of cooked meals.

However, with the help of the custodial staff under head custodian Cristian Reyes and the Teaching Assistants under Ms. Julie, students were guided through the process by the experienced We Future Cycle staff. Students and staff learned quickly and after 6 days of sorting, we have proudly achieved a 91% reduction in waste because of students who do correct and independent sorting.

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Recovered Food from half of one lunch period

A waste audit showed that Eastview students divert daily 91 % of their waste into composting and recycling.  They also save 65  lbs  of untouched foods from going into the garbage every day. Sixy-five pounds of untouched food translates into 4 crates of milk cartons, fruit cups, carrot sticks,  yogurt cups, wrapped sandwiches, and cheese sticks. This food is now recovered and donated, thanks to the wonderful food service crew under leadership of Manager Laura Ackerly.

Eastview Middle School is doing a phenomenal job and next year its graduates will be moving the program up the line into Highland Middle school for 7th and 8th grade. Growing the program through the grades is how it becomes second nature to all ages, bringing change not only to the students and the school, but also to the communities that these students call home.

 

White Plains GW Elementary School Reduces Garbage by 98 %

Check out that pile of sorted out trays! Today was the big roll out day of the We Future Cycle Recycling Program in the 4th Elementary School of White Plains. The waste audit yesterday revealed that GW with its 650 students generated normally 16 bags of trash, weighing 235 lbs. All students went through class by class presentation by experienced WFC staff that skillfully walked the children through the realization that just because a food packaging is empty, it does not mean it is garbage and thus useless. Students learned that most of their everyday lunchroom packaging is fully recyclable if just sorted out, and they also learned that by sorting out the food waste, we could create compost, a valuable resource.

Looking at pictures of the piles of garbage from their school, generated from lunch and night clean, and then learning that there is no “away” for garbage was eye opening even for the littlest one. When asked if they were ready to save the world by sorting their waste into the right bin, they were READY!

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And they showed it in the lunchroom! Under wonderful guidance of the entire TA staff, and great personal engagement by the head custodian, the students, from K through 5 pulled off a wonderful job and reducing their garbage by a whopping 98% by sorting the materials into Food Waste for composting, Commingled for Recycling, Excess Liquid to go down the drain, and untouched food to be donated. From 291 lbs only 6.5 lbs were actually trash, one small fluffy bag, instead of the 16 heavy dripping and bulging bags from yesterday.

 

That is truly something to write home about. All of GW students can be proud that they are making a real difference every day now.

 

White Plains School District is Solving the Individual Ketchup Pouch Problem

tumblr_kxhn6hra6r1qz8u8ho1_400Individual ketchup pouches are an environmental nightmare in school lunchrooms. The students tend to take them by the fistful, they are fun to step on, and they always end up in the source separated food waste as contaminant. So, why is it so difficult to get rid of them?

Commercial Food service providers list their convenience as the number one reason for usage.

However, convenience for Food Service Providers comes with a high price tag to the schools.

White Plains School District Food Service Director Ed Marra has eliminated individual Ketchup pouches from all schools, replacing them with refillable squeeze bottles, saving money and the environment.

And under the guidance of Laura Mungin, Principal of George Washington Elementary School, the Teaching Assistants are going even further by actually serving the kids as they want, thus making sure nobody is just pumping the pump for the fun of it. A win win situation. Students experience individual care, food is not wasted nor abused as toy, and students are learning proper table behavior.

The advantages are clear.

We Future Cycle is working for years to eliminate single service Ketchup pouches from the menu of the many districts we are working in. May White Plains GW Elementary school be a shining example that there are much better ways than giving in to the convenience of commercial Food Service Providers.

“We had no trash at all today” 250 students have learned about Waste Free Snack

“We had no trash at all today” proudly says Sebastian , a pre K student, and then hugs my leg. And then he gets to paste a Waste Free Leaf on the fabulous tree outside the Principal’s office.

In June I sat surrounded by 3 and 4 year olds. One girl even sitting on my lap. In front of me is a tray with all their waste from snack. Asking little ones like that where the trash goes, they will give you answers like “in the garbage can”, “in the garbage truck”, but when you ask deeper where they thought the garbage truck goes, they all stopped to think. I watched them figure out that -of course- the truck has to go somewhere and then guided them through the process of understanding that Westchester’s trash gets burned into our air.

Together we resolved that it is just as easy to put the sandwich in a washable container than in a single serve plastic baggie. And they got it, amazingly quickly.

Introducing the We Future Cycle Waste Free Snack program that combines education of children and ultimately also their parents with a fun hands-on activity has brought great change to schools. At the German International School White Plains, the entire elementary school is participating. We Future Cycle went to each classroom. We talked about how to package foods in a more responsible way, how to be waste free, how to be healthy to our body and to our Earth and we introduced on-site composting.

To make decomposition touchable for the students, two composters are placed at a convenient spot and each class learned about it. Each time the students are waste free and have only compostable waste, they are rewarded with a leaf to paste on the beautiful Waste-Free-Tree and two students get to feed the composter. It is a very coveted job and as they dump the fresh banana peel in, they get to check out what happened to yesterdays apple core, bringing natures circle of life close to home.

Needless to say, teachers are reporting that a record numbers of apples and bananas are coming in since the beginning of the program.

But what is the most satisfying for me, is that the students are suddenly aware of how their actions make a difference, they are aware that waste is a problem, and they join me celebrating being waste free.