Sitting on the carpet surrounded by a group of New Rochelle Barnard students and doing a presentation about recycling is one of my favorite activities. I just love helping students make a very important mental transition. When I show students a bunch of empty packaging material, one will invariably sneer at it and call it trash.
Walking them through the fact that empty packaging is not trash, but rather material for new things is the most rewarding, because children get it so fast. They understand what it means to play with things over and over again, if you just put it in the right bin.
At some point, I ask the students where they think “away” is, when they talk about throwing something away. I usually get a variety of answers ranging from “the garbage truck” all the way to “the dump”.
Today, however, at Barnard Elementary School in New Rochelle, I was blown away as a 2nd grader very casually answered : “Garbage goes to the incinerator”.
And that is exactly right.
Westchester burns 2500 tons of garbage every single day at its Wheelabrator Facility located in Peekskill NY. At a price tag of close to $80 a ton to just drop the stuff onto the tipping floor, Westchester is looking at a whopping $200,000 per day cost just to burn our garbage into our air. (long pause to let this sink in)
In a school, 95-98 % of the waste can be recycled, if it is just sorted out. The same applies to Westchester’s garbage of 48% organic, 33 % paper and 16% Commingled recycling.
We have fabulous technology like an I-phone, but we cannot sort our garbage so that 95% can get recycled instead of getting burnt into our air?
Well, New Rochelle Barnard Students have just joined the growing group of schools that say “Yes, we can make a difference, a huge difference” And that is exactly what they did.
From 84 lbs of waste, only one single pound was trash, all the rest was sorted in the right bin and fed into compost, recycling or down the drain as liquid waste.
I call that making a huge difference!