Report From the Trenches: Head Custodian Talks about Recycling Program

Implementing the We Future Cycle Recycling program in a new school is a lot of behind the scenes preparation work, the building has to get set up, all players need to be presented to, flow has to be created, guidelines established, responsibilities assigned and only once all that is done, we get to train the kids to actually source separate in the lunchroom and thus reducing garbage by a whopping 98%.

One of the key player in each school is the head custodian and the success of the program is tightly connected to his/her buy in.

We Future Cycle sat down to talk with Pedro Molina, head custodian at White Plains Ridgeway Elementary School, the first of the White Plains schools to join the program two years ago.

Pedro laughed when I asked him to recall. He said he did not believe me initially when I talked about a 95% reduction in waste. He worked too long in a school and has for too long carried out 15 bags of garbage every lunch.

After setting up the station in the lunchroom and living through the blur of the first day of hands on training the kids to sort, he believed me, in a breathless sort of way. We did the waste audit together, weighed each bag together and documented the incredible reduction. Pedro mentioned : “I am going to be in trouble, I have so much commingled recycling now, and no place to put it”

Pedro jumped into action, and went about teaching his staff so that the system is providing consistency and continuity. From day 2 on, breakfast, lunch and afterschool programs were sorting, an incredible accomplishment.

In the beginning there was resistance from his staff. Cleaners thought it will be more work for them, but once students learned how to sort it became easier and easier and now, instead of having to bring out 15 bags in a span of 1.5 hrs, cleaners only have to clean up at the very end of lunch.

Pedro Molina’s constant support is vital to the program and his enthusiasm and guidance is the key ingredient to keeping the students engaged. He shares that he has a large crew of student helpers every single day helping at the station.

And it didn’t stop at school, Pedro has taken the information home and is diligent about sorting at home too. Seriously WAY TO GO!

New Rochelle Students Fighting For Less Packaging in Cafeteria

Meet Ben and Nate. These engaged 6th graders made an appointment with the New Rochelle Albert Leonard Middle School  Principal John Barnes to discuss the need for additional changes in the lunchroom. Both students fully support the We Future Cycle recycling program but want to see it go even further.

Armed with plastic wrapped apples, plastic wrapped cookies, Styrofoam FroYo cups and single serve ketchup pouches they made their case. Reading from their research notes they presented Mr Barnes with facts about plastic in the environment as well as the now documented health risks associated with consuming food that touched the polystyrene.

Mr Barnes invited the Executive Director Anna Giordano to the meeting to give the students the opportunity to hear what is already in the works in regards to these materials. Ms Giordano was delighted to meet these engaged students and shared that exactly these materials are on her list to be replaced with more environmental solutions.

Nate and Ben were invited to share their concerns in writing with the administration and they are now working on a letter to formally request the removal and replacement of these packaging items.

Mr Barnes was exceedingly proud of his students and rightly so!.