Recycling from 3500 students in 2 days at New Rochelle HS

New Rochelle HS is in its second year running the We Future Cycle recycling program and it has become the new normal to sort. Watching HS students coming up to sort their waste, while chatting with the friends, without hesitation and without issue is the shining light on how the power of one can transform a system.

7 years ago, Anna Giordano saw the mountain of garbage coming out of each lunchroom and how mindless the students were when discarding all of their lunch in one garbage can, no matter if the milk was opened or the apple had a bite taken out, and decided to do something about it. Starting with data collection, a survey of all the accumulated garbage (all 35 bags) revealed that most is either recyclable or compostable if it was just sorted out. So, with some trial and error the lunchroom sorting station was developed and kids were taught to sort.

And now, New Rochelle is boasting 11,500 students that sort their lunch waste every day, generating compost and recycling and practically no trash. As a matter of fact, the entire district only generates around 44 lbs from all 10 lunchrooms combined, that is truly remarkable.

While most people might look at these pictures and think….eeek garbage, I can only see the beauty of sorted recyclables and I know that this was done because a generation of kids now cares!

Advertisements

New Rochelle Trinity Lunchroom Cleaner empowering students

Meet Brian, New Rochelle Trinity’s long term lunchroom cleaner. He is running one of the busiest lunchrooms in the district with about 150 kids per lunch period by himself. And it does not phase him. Calmly he keeps everything clean and organized and the kids love him.

Trinity is one of the first New Rochelle schools to run the We Future Cycle program and has never wavered and by now, the entire school population has never seen anything  but calmly getting up, walking to the recycling station and sorting their lunch waste into excess liquid, recyclable, non-recyclable and compostable, thus reducing garbage by 97%.

Brian has been helping with this process and thanks to his friendly and inviting attitude, he has student helpers every day, clamoring for the job. Brian’s only rule is that the students have to have eaten first and then everybody gets a chance to help. Sometimes he has more helpers than space, but he is a wonderful sport about it.

This kind of adult support is what makes the Trinity program so special and sustainable, there is buy-in from all adults and it permeates through the building.

Thank you, Brian for all you do.

New Rochelle Trinity 1st Graders learn about Worms and love them

Walking into a classroom of 1st graders, armed with a bin of worms is a fun thing. Students usually squirm a bit, are slightly afraid and timidly even voice that feeling, but in general, get engaged very quickly to learn about why wriggly, slimy worms are so important to our world.

Students learn that worms are living beings that breathe through their skin. I enjoy watching them looking in disbelief at their skin trying to grasp the concept. Worms can eat enormous amounts , half of their body weight every day. To demonstrate that to the students I have them get up and put their hand at slightly above their waste and ask them to look down upon their legs and to imagine to have THAT much to eat every day.

After learning how they move, what muscles can do, how worms reproduce (by laying cocoons that contain 2 to 3 live worms, just in case the intrepid reader of this post was interested in these details), students had a chance to get up close and personal with a handful of worms.

image4Checking out to see the castings in the translucent tail sections of the worm gave way to great excitement and when we found the mother load of cocoons, the students were beside themselves with excitement.

Teaching students that every living being has important jobs to do and without these jobs done, everybody is in trouble is an important life lesson for kids to learn. All worms ended up with names. Jeffrey seemed to be the favorite. Students wrote afterwards what they learned about worms and they all agreed that worms are our friends.

 

Adopt A School To Provide Environmental Programming

Help us bring environmental education programs to schools.

We Future Cycle is providing challenging environmental programs to schools, all as stand alone curriculum add-on programs to teach students about how their every day actions can make a big difference.

  1. Environmental Footprint of Aluminum: (grade 5-9) Do you know where aluminum comes from?  It comes from Bauxite, a type of stone that contains various alumina minerals. Mining for bauxite involves cutting down trees in rain forests, destroying animal habitats and causing water and soil erosion. Students learn in detail how aluminum is created, and also the importance of recycling aluminum because it can be used over and over again.
  2. Science of Compost: (grade 4-7) After learning to source-separate their food and paper waste in the lunchroom, students know that the material is trucked away to be turned into compost, but how does the transformation happen?  In classroom presentations including slides and video, students will learn the science of mixing “greens” with “browns” with the appropriate amount of moisture to create nutrient rich compost. They will also learn about how putting organic matter in landfills contributes to climate change.
  3. Vermiculture: (grade K – 3) There are number of ways that organic waste (food and paper) are broken down to nourish our soil, and one is vermiculture, or worm composting.  In classroom-by-classroom presentation from a WFC expert, students will learn how worms are used to decompose organic waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich material that can provide nutrients for sustainable plant growth. Students will learn that every living being has an important job to do and after getting up and close to a bunch of worms, most kids end up naming their worms. (Jeffrey seems to be the name of choice, and sometimes “wormy”)
  4. Planting a Trash Garden: (grade K-3) Students are learning about what is organic and inorganic and they learn how materials interact with the environment over time. It opens their eyes to the litter problem surrounding them as well as make them compassionate about being a change agent. A scientific experiment makes this very tangible for the students.
  5. Water Water Water: (grade 5-10) Students will learn about water, how it gets into the homes and what happens to it when it leaves, they learn the working of a Waste Water Treatment Plants, touch upon Waste Water to Drinking Water, Desalination and what the hype about bottled water is about. A water filtration activity for the students caps the lesson off.
  6. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch:(grade 5 – 12) Students are learning about the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the role of ocean currents, and how this affects wild life and the food chain. They also learn about prevention and mitigation in process. This program is very much centered around how people rise up to meet these challenges, it is meant to show students that nobody is too small to make a big difference. Never underestimate the power of one.
  7. Milk Cartons: (grade 3-6) This program explores packaging over time and how single serve packaging came about. Milk cartons are prevalent in any lunchroom in America, but few students know how a milk carton is made.  Students will learn how paperboard and waterproof plastic are blended to make a liquid-proof container, and thus why recycling cartons is a unique process.  Note that Westchester County only started recycling milk cartons in May 2016 and this program will aid to get the information back into the homes.
  8. E-waste/Electronic Equipment: (grade 6-11) What is E-waste and what does it take to make electronic devices that end up as e-waste. How are the devices disposed off and what are the human, environmental and social ramifications of E-Waste. This is also covering jobs in the recycling industry and how students can become involved in innovative technologies.
  9. 9. “Did you know” poster lunchroom education scavenger hunt (grade 3-6): this is an indoor recess activity to make students aware of the environmental foot print of materials they use every day, often without a second thought like straws, plastic bags etc. Searching for clues and filling in blanks is fun to do and they are learning without even noticing it.
  10. 10. The social and environmental impact of textiles: (grade 8-12) this program explores where clothing comes from, what it takes to make them, the social and environmental costs attached to clothing and why textile recycling is so important.
  11. 11. Galapagos, how islands deal with garbage: (grade 8 – 12) Exploring how other nations deal with waste, highlighting Galapagos.
  12. What is recycling? (grade 2-6) What happens to the material we put into the recycling bin, where does it go and what becomes of it. Learning how scientific concepts of gravity, magnetism, anti current, friction and resistance are used to sort materials for recycling. This program also focuses on reduce and reuse education
  13. What is Fracking (grades 8-12) an introduction into energy exploration and the environmental consequences to the oil and gas industry. What does it take to keep society going? Glimpsing into oil and gas exploration, as well as introducing renewable energy sources and how each student can make a difference by being energy literate.
  14. Coal and its environmental footprint (grade 8-12) This presentation examines how coal is mined and processed to be burned to make electricity, it describes the human , social and environmental costs. Renewable energy sources are introduced and contrasted.

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!!!
IMG_0433

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!

unnamed (5)