Mamaroneck’s Middle School has Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Rocket Composter

Dr Shaps and Dr Weitzman presenting the We Future Cycle Recycling Program
Dr Shaps and Dr Weitzman presenting the We Future Cycle Recycling Program

Larchmont and Mamaroneck’s Superintendent Dr. Shaps and Hommocks Principal Dr. Seth Weitzman proudly cut the ribbon to the first Rocket Composter at a Westchester public school.

Thanks to a generous grant of the Education Foundation, the purchase of this stainless steel machine that takes food waste and wood chips and 2 weeks later, compost comes out the other end, was made possible. After an additional 4 weeks of maturation, the compost will have finished its nitrification process and the compost can be used in the garden.

We Future Cycle was hired to do the program implementation as well as teaching students how to sort properly. The rocket is a picky eater, it only likes food.

Slide3The additional benefit of the We Future Cycle program is that apart from the food waste, also excess liquids, paper and commingled recycling are sorted out and sent into recycling streams rather then up the Hudson to be burnt as trash. A win win situation for all parties.

As a matter of fact, Hommocks is able to divert a whopping 86% of its waste into recycling or composting streams.

Mamaroneck’s Mayor Mr Rosenblum shared with a smile that his DPW guys already reported to him how much of a difference that makes.

Dr Shaps is very proud of Hommocks success and is looking forward to be implementing the recycling program in the other schools too.

We Future Cycle is proud to be helping with that as well.

 

 

 

 

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Tackling Food Waste In School District Lunchrooms To Make A Difference

IMG_0284This is completely untouched food from just one lunch period in one school.

Before schools implemented the We Future Cycle Recycling program, this untouched food went unnoticed right into the garbage can.

unnamed (2)However, now as additional benefit to source separating in the lunchroom this food is sorted into a share basket, ready to be  consumed by either other children within the school during lunch, afterschool program or while being at the nurses office, or donating it to a local soup kitchen. Both is legal, safe and infinitely preferred over just trashing it.

We Future Cycle is often met with resistance when suggesting to donate the sorted out food. Standard practice in the school cafeterias is that if the milk runs out of date over the weekend, instead of donating it on Friday, it is being tossed on Monday, packaging at all.

Arguments given are that food service does not want to be liable should someone get sick when consuming donated food, or that it is illegal to donate tax payer sponsored food, or that it is too much work to organize the logistics around food donation.

As a matter of fact, it is not only legal, but also encouraged to donate the food. The Good Samaritan Act  holds any donor harmless and We Future Cycle will pair the school up with the closest local, health department vetted soup kitchen, that will come and pick up right after lunch. A complete Win Win situation for all parties.

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And think about the social lesson to the children if they are involved in the process.

However, the best way to avoid untouched food waste is to teach the children (and their parents) about choices and how to refuse when they do not intend to consume a food item.

In the lunchrooms we see so many children dumping the lovingly made sandwich from mom right into compost, without ever taking a bite out of it. And off they go to stand in line at the snack desk to buy chips and ice cream.

I am sure there is a better way. Let’s tackle it to make a difference.

 

 

White Plains School District Food Service, an Active Participant to Reduce Waste

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Church St Food Service workers preparing trays to keep  packaging at minimum

The success of source separating lunchrooms and teaching students about sustainable practices depends immensely on partnership with food service. The equation is easy, what goes in, must come back out. If food service sends many single serve packaging into the lunchroom, it makes sorting very difficult, potentially contaminating the food waste with plastic and ending up in the trash (or on the floor).

Have you ever tried peeling a sticky opened ketchup pouch off a tray? Not a pretty picture.

Ed Marra, Director of Food Service for the White Plains City School District, is a fabulous team player who took the We Future Cycle recycling program as chance to educate all his staff in sustainable practices. While only two of White Plains schools are piloting the program right now,  Mr Marra knew that all school employees can benefit from this kind of education.

He invited Anna Giordano to the Superintendents Training Day at White Plains High School to educate the staff not only about how the program works and what the children are learning, but going the extra mile to outline the environmental and social foot print each material has.

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only 1/4 bin of trash per day

Cafeteria Manager Sadie Tatum shared that she had no idea that Aluminum foil comes from strip mining the rain forest and she has immediately stopped using aluminum foil in her cafeteria and her home.  Ms Tatum and her team excitedly set up their kitchen to follow the same sorting guidelines and all are stunned to see that at the end of a day, they had less then a quarter office size bin as trash. All food, packaging and soft plastic was sorted out to be composted and recycled, and the only trash was gloves and dirty soft plastics.

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“It is not hard, no big deal at all to sort”, Ms Tatum said when asked on how the system affected her normal day.

Mr. Marra actively supports the program by eliminating most single serve packaging, replacing them with squeeze bottles and dispensers. He also affected the change that bagel condiments were made “by choice” items and not just placed on the tray of the children, whether they wanted the creme cheese or not.

These kinds of  adjustments are often met with resistance. Arguments against replacing single serve ketchup pouches are that it is too much work to refill the squeeze bottles, or the students would take too much. However in White Plains, thanks to Mr Marra’s decisive leadership and the training,  the transition was flawless and it allowed Church St Elementary School to become a new Zero Waste Facility with less then 1.7% of trash, or only 3 lbs (!!!) of trash coming out of a lunchroom with 800 students.

 

White Plains Church St Elementary School Nearly At Zero Waste

White Plains Church St Elementary School under the leadership of Principal Myra Castillo and Assistant Principal Merle Jackson have reached nearly Zero Waste  with only 3 lbs of trash from nearly 700 students in the lunchroom.  Outstanding!

Ms Castillo knew that this program can only work if all departments work together for a common goal. She allowed time for food service, facilities, teachers and teachers aids to be trained on why the We Future Cycle recycling program is so valuable for the social development of the students.

And both Ms Castillo and Ms Jackson are putting their money where their mouth is and are actively participating in teaching the students on how to sort.

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33 lbs of compostable trays sorted out

The system is easy. First the students empty their left over liquids into the bucket, sorting the container into either milk cartons or commingled, then all remaining plastic is sorted into commingled, all food waste and paper products are dumped into compost and the tray is stacked neatly. Done.

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42.5 lbs of compostable food waste

Church St had a whopping 76 lbs of excess liquid, a large bag of commingled, 2 large bags of milk cartons, 75.5 lbs of compostable material and only 3 lbs of trash, that is 1.7%. Nearly Zero Waste!

6 students helped with the weighing and counting. Thank you

Only the students that bring lunch from home in disposable packaging are contributing to trash. Non recyclable are chip bags, drink pouches, soft plastic wrappers, sandwich baggies, go go squeeze packaging and things along those lines. Next steps will be to actively involve parents to be part of the zero waste solution.

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Smiling head custodian Jody Raynor helping students sort

A huge shout out to Head Custodian Jody Raynor, whose support in this program is invaluable. He is being called  ” Mr Smiles” by the students.  Trust me, I am not making this up.  He does smile all the time, while helping the students to sort. Truly WAY TO GO!

Church St Elementary School is a prime example on how support by all departments can lead to something as fabulous as nearly zero waste.

 

Joining We Future Cycle To Make A Difference

Enid Blount Press joined WeFutureCycle to help be part of the solution of recycling and composting in the schools in 2015.

Enid is a mom and a professional musician.

On the day her 2nd Grade daughter came home, distraught that the school had brought back Styrofoam trays in the lunchroom, she decided to call the school system and ask what their plan was for bringing back compostable trays.  Their response was that the cardboard trays would be back 5 months later, in the fall.   Joining Anna Giordano, who was behind getting the Styrofoam out of the schools, was her next step.

Enid now helps in the New Rochelle school system as well as other schools with the composting and recycling in the lunchrooms.  Enid is “thrilled to help tackle the waste” and provide a better environmental education for our community along with her colleagues.

We Future Cycle is extremely proud to have Enid. She immediately jumped into action by joining the implementation at the White Plains Church St Elementary School.

White Plains Ridgeway Elementary School reduces garbage by 95%

White Plains Ridgeway Elementary school was chosen as one of the pilots to implement the We Future Cycle School lunch recycling program.

With enthusiastic support from Assistant Principal James Graziano  Ridgeway students learned  in assemblies that packaging is not trash but material for new things, they learned where the garbage goes when it is not sorted or recyclable, and they all agreed that they did not want to live next to a dump nor an incinerator. For good measures, they also agreed that animals probably won’t like living next to one either.

The custodial staff, under leadership of Pedro Molina, was super supportive, helping to set up the recycling station, going way out of their way to make the school a success. On Halloween a full bodied Batman was helping students at the recycling station. How fabulous is that!

Ridgeway had 124 lbs of waste of which only 6 lbs were actual trash, all other was either liquid, food waste, milk cartons or commingled recycling. A whopping 95% reduction. Now, that is truly something to write home about.

Ridgunnamed (5)eway’s parents came to “do lunch” with their children, helping to train the students in the new sorting system.  It takes active supervision and guidance to teach 700 students to sort and these parents were up to the task, fully supporting the efforts of the school to create a generation of kids that care.

White Plains Church St Students are learning about “away”

When you say ” I am throwing something away” , where is “away”?

That is a question  students at Church St Elementary school learned the answer to. And they didn’t like it, not one bit.

Looking at pictures of land fills and incinerators brought even the littlest students to a open mouthed gasp.  November 6th 2015 was launch date of the We Future Cycle Recycling program at Church St and it started with assemblies to all students in the auditorium. In a lively presentation, students learned to look differently at packaging material. What they first considered trash, they saw later as raw material for new things, the premise of recycling.  What they first saw as a yummy snack, they later saw as food that created trash because of its unrecyclable packaging.  They also learned just how much garbage is generated at a school, something they had never thought of before. And they learned, that most of what they generate can be recycled if it was just sorted out. Now they are chomping at the bit to start sorting.

DSCN19056 Safety Squat students were chosen to assist with the “before recycling” waste audit. They stood open mouthed in front of the 15 bags of bulging trash. They weighed each bag, we calculated totals, looked at median bag weights, offered suggestions why some bags were much heavier then others, while not being necessarily more bulky.  Suggestions included that the bags may have come from younger students as there was more heavy food and more left over liquid in these bags.

Church St generated that day 15 bags of trash, weighing a total of 204 lbs. Anna Giordano, from We Future Cycle, asked the students to imagine what a ton of garbage looked like. Step by step, the students worked to identify that 200  of their own lunchroom bags would equal 2000 lbs. Upon learning that Westchester Ct generates more then 2300 tons of garbage per day, one boy sadly commented “and that is just Westchester”. A very mature deduction from a 5th grader.

From Monday Nov 9th, Church St students will be separating their lunchroom waste into waste liquid, milk cartons, commingled and food waste and the students are looking forward to diverting an estimated 90% away from trash and into recycling.

Church St is all geared up to make a difference. Way to go!