Tag Archives: cafeteria recycling

New Rochelle Columbus Kindergarten students Hard At Work For the Environment

Every day at lunch, Columbus Elementary school has about 15 enthusiastic students helping at the recycling station. My favorite group are the kindergarteners.

They cannot even look over the rim of the bin, but they are excited recyclers. When they come into the lunchroom, they first run over to me to ask if they can help. Of course they can help, but they are all sent to go and eat first. After a while, they start showing up, first carefully sorting their own tray and then proudly taking their position behind the station.

The most critical position is watching over the food waste bin to make sure no plastic or other contaminants end up in it, and the second most important job is the correct stacking of the trays.  Meet  Jose, the Master of the trays.  I just love this little boy!

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.

 

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 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!

 

 

 

Waste Management in Germany, 87% recycling rate

3,w=650,c=0.bildIn Germany, Source Separation is old news, everybody does it . And I mean

E V E R Y  B O D Y!

It is working because Germany applied country wide the same strategy.  German households, and buildings are all set up the same way. Everybody is sorting food waste into the  brown “BioTonne”, Paper into the “Blue Bin” , all packaging into the “Yellow Bin” and then there is the black bin for left over garbage.

The pick up schedule is set up to reward recycling and to penalize garbage. Country wide food waste pick up takes place once per week, Paper and Packaging Materials are alternating once per week and the left over garbage is only picked up once per month. Each bin has a bar code and is read at point of pick up. The cost per consumer is calculated by weight whereas food waste and recycling has a very low per pound fee, and remaining garbage a very high per pound fee.

The keys to success were

1.  consistent signage, consistent colors of bins

2. supervision at point of collection (oops stickers, and ultimately fines for non compliance)

3. pay per throw via bar code,  per pound cost differentiated by material.

4. Bio Digesters for food waste management .

The results are just amazing.

KSzectF (1)In Numbers:  Germany generates some 50 million tons of waste per year from its 82.5 million people.  87% of that waste is recycled through household and industrial source separation.

Construction debris is only accepted source separated to particular standards.

Grocery stores are required to offer disposal of hard to recycle materials and with that came a revolution in packaging, as suddenly the point of sale was responsible for what it put on its shelves.

There are no active landfills in Germany, a few incinerators are dealing with the remaining 13% of left over garbage.  Italy is sending its trash to Germany for incineration, and Germany is actually harvesting that trash from its recyclables before sending it to the incinerator.

And the absolute best is, that it is now cost efficient to harvest old landfills, which is starting to happen in several areas all over Germany.

A true example of what can be possible if everybody is seeing the greater good, rather then the quick buck for some selected few.

How Much is Actually “a Ton of Garbage”?

Garbage costs money.  However only very few people actually know how much it costs and what a ton looks like. Very few of us think further then to the curb.

Let’s look at school garbage a little closer. A school with 830 students generated 23 large black bags of garbage every lunch, the total weight of those bags is 398.5 lbs.

This is what 23 bags look like. IMG_0258 Now that we know what about 400 lbs of garbage looks like, lets think about it.

A ton of garbage costs the tax payer around $80.00 to just dump it onto the tipping floor of the Incinerator, the big trash burning facility up in Peekskill. 400 lbs is a fifth of a ton.  So, imagine 5 times the amount you see, or 115 bags of trash. Clearly the $80 per ton does not represent the only cost of garbage. This material has to be put in bags, then brought outside into the dumpster, then loaded by workers into diesel fuel guzzling trucks (about 2.5 miles per gallon of diesel), driven to a transfer station, dumped there, then loaded onto large trucks and driven 50 miles up north to be dumped onto the tipping floor of the incinerator. And then it is burnt into our air. I get dizzy just looking at how often this material needs to be touched and handled for it “to go away”. It takes that much time and effort to “just throw something away”.

We just started the School lunch recycling program in this school and the kids sorted their lunchwaste into liquids, commingled, milk cartons, compost and trash. The results were astounding. unnamed

Out of the previous 398.5 lbs, only 8 lbs were actually non recyclable. That means that 98% of the material is recyclable.  So, “just throwing it away” is not just costing us a lot of money, but in fact, we use tax payer money to burn materials that we could easily sell for a profit. unnamed (2)

This is what 10 lbs of commingled looks like. Some math on the value of commingled. 1 ton of plastic PETE 1 sells from the Yonkers MRF for around $800. (the cost is market driven, oil dependent and is fluctuating). 10 lbs of plastic (to simplify this calculation, it is all the same resin) 2000 lbs of plastics sell for $800.00 10 lbs = $4.00 Milk cartons sell for $450 per ton. 30 lbs = $6.75 IMG_0278And this is what 15 lbs of milk cartons look like, we had two of these bags. And two full 5 gallon buckets with waste liquid weighing 74 lbs. That means we use fossil fuels to truck liquids 50 miles north just to burn them, rather then sending them down the drain? By far the heaviest was the food waste. 180 lbs of wasted food from 800 kids, plus about 50 lbs of untouched never opened food that was placed into the share basket. Clearly, a ton of garbage is a lot, but as you can see, only 2% of it is actually non recyclable.

So, our convenience to “just throw it away” costs us all dearly. Not just as hard cash but also at great environmental expense.