Tag Archives: compost

Grants From The Carton Council Make Milk Carton Recycling Possible at Westchester Schools

There are two concern that make school leaders hesitant to start lunchroom recycling & composting.

The first concern is the fear of change. Administrators and custodians are worried that a source separate program, where students are separating their milk cartons, plastics, and food waste, will create more work in the lunchroom, and that sorting lunchroom leftovers may be too challenging for their students. However, as more schools have adopted the We Future Cycle program, and enhanced recycling and composting has taken off in Westchester, these concerns have subsided. School leaders realize that composting is an important part of a healthy community, and they are now fully on board at the start.

The second concern is money. While implementing and maintaining a recycling and composting program at a school is minuscule compared to many school expenses, every penny counts. We try to use existing bins at the school because reusing is both economical and sustainable. However often some bins need to be purchased, along with signage to specficy the separation of milk and juice cartons, food waste, etc. Annual recycling & compost pick up costs several thousand dollars per year. And We Future Cycle must charge a nominal fee to maintains school-required insurance and ensure we can bring in enough people to help educate students and monitor recycling bins at an ever-growing number of schools as we expand our reach. Volunteers are wonderful, but most districts do not have a sufficient number of stay-at-home parents who can dedicate enough time to helping us launch and sustain our programs.

What is a school to do? Enter Carton Council, willing to contribute funds for bins and signage for milk & juice carton recycling, which makes the We Future program a reality at many schools!

Formed in 2009, the Carton Council is an organization committed to growing carton recycling in the U.S. By promoting both recycling technology and local collection programs, as well as growing awareness that cartons are recyclable, they work to limit the number of cartons that become waste.  Since Westchester County’s Material Recycling Facility (MRF) began recycling milk cartons and Tetra Pak containers in May 2016, the Carton Council’s mission to increase carton recycling and We Future Cycle’s mission to increase lunchroom recycling and composting were perfectly aligned.

Carton Council grants have been provided to schools in Rye Neck and Mount Vernon. New schools that join the We Future Cycle family will have the option to obtain a Carton Council grant as well. We are seeing that the grants are having a huge impact on schools’ abilities to work with us, and we are enormously grateful to the Carton Council for making our program a reality at so many Westchester schools!

Rye Neck’s Daniel Warren Elementary Students Prove Kindergarteners Can Compost!

One of the questions we frequently get asked is “How will Kindergarteners be able to compost in the lunchroom? Will they really be able to sort their lunch leftovers?”

Our resounding answer is alway “YES!,” and Daniel Warren Elementary School students proved that during their launch of the We Future Cycle program in October 2019.

Following the launch at F.E. Bellows in Rye Neck, which is a grade 3-5 school, We Future Cycle took on teaching the K-2 students at Daniel Warren about composting. Principal Tara Goldberg was very engaged in the launch. She is present during the entire 1 hr lunch period (1/2 hour for grade 2, 1/2hr for Kindergarten, and 1st grade is split up between the 2 lunch periods), which enabled her to optimize the flow of students as they came up to the 2 recycling & composting stations to sort their leftovers. We tried 3 set-ups before we arrived at a system which got the students through the lines most quickly! That is the right way to implement any innovative program like composting; launch with the best plan you have, but be flexible and optimize as time goes on.

The custodial team, led by Tom Tempesta, was enthusiastic about giving input to make the process seamless for them. The aides all jumped in to help; they immediately saw the benefit of recycling and composting and were eager to help the students sort their leftovers properly. Teachers take turns helping kids in the lunchroom – a practice which was common decades ago but is now uncommon in Westchester schools – which is a great way for educators to observe their students in a social environment and also help extend environmental education into their classrooms.

And, the parents, wow! We had parent volunteers from the start, and their dedication was impressive. We Future Cycle monitors the lunchroom stations for 2 weeks during the launch period, but then we leave the program in the hands of a champion at the school. The parents created their own monitoring schedule so they could continue to support the program when We Future Cycle moves on to launch other schools. And while we rely on administrators, aides, and custodians to keep the program operating on a daily basis, We Future Cycle checks in at each school twice per month to make sure everything is humming along smoothly.

The results at Daniel Warren were almost identical to the results at F.E. Bellow. 92% of the lunchroom waste was diverted into composting and recycling:

Liquid: 6lbs (10% of total weight)
Commingled (hard plastics and aluminum for recycling): 10lbs (16%)
Compost (food and paper): 34lbs (56%)
Trays (also will be composted): 6lbs (10%)
Trash: 5lbs (8%)
Total weight: 61lbs

Our only challenge is the many non-recyclable and ever-changing food service items. The Daniel Warren lunchroom has a cooler of water (which is preferable to single-use water bottles), but at one point there were 3 different cups next to the water cooler – one was a plastic recyclable cup, one was a paper compostable cup, and a third was a paper/plastic blend cup which would go in the trash! It is unnecessarily complicated when lunchrooms have an excessive number of single use items that must be sorted at the composting and recycling station, and we try to work with food service to make the packaging more simple.

Thank you to the Rye Neck PTSA for bringing this program to the Rye Neck elementary schools and for their financial and volunteer commitment to this initiative. We look forward to bringing the program to the MS/HS in the near future!

F.E. Bellows in Rye Neck Launches We Future Cycle!

We Future Cycle had a successful launch at F.E. Bellows Elementary School, which serves 3rd-5th graders, in September 2019.  The Rye Neck School District is one of the most enthusiastic and all-in communities in which we have launched the program! The PTSA spearheaded the introduction of We Future Cycle into the school district, and generously funded all components of the launch, including the weekly compost pick-up. Principal Mike Scarantino was an eager advocate for the program, as he had shown the documentary “Straws” to the 5th graders, educating them about the overuse of and destruction caused by single-use plastics. A number of students already compost at home, either in their backyards or through the Village’s residential food scrap program. Starting off with a mindful and supportive team makes the transition into lunchroom composting and recycling so much easier.

Head custodian Phil Reda and his team were very helpful in optimizing the lunchroom set-up. We started with one station, but as the kids were eager to run out to recess right after lunch, the custodial team asked about setting up a second station to make the sorting process even quicker – no problem at all! We also adjusted the bin order and bin size to make it easier for the custodial team to manage the recycling and composting at the end of the lunch periods. Each school is a little different, and the We Future Cycle team monitors the lunch periods at the school for 2 weeks after launch, giving everyone ample time to adjust and make any adjustments necessary to make the lunchroom flow smooth.

Aides Janice, Franka, Vilma, and Lisa, and the food service employees were all committed to making the system work as well. As in most school lunchrooms, students are given spork packets wrapped in plastic, ketchup packets, apple slices in packets, etc., and many are trashed without even being opened!  At Bellows, students were automatically given 2 ketchup packets when they had a meal, such as chicken fingers or burgers, where they might want ketchup. In these instances we collected unopened packets and found that 75 – yes, SEVENTY-FIVE – ketchup packets were being trashed without even being opened, in a school of about 350 students.  As well, on pizza day, students were allowed to go up to food service to get a second slice – but were required to take a second tray.

Both the aides and food service employees found these practices – distributing ketchup packets and requiring second trays for additional pizza slices – to be unnecessarily wasteful once they saw how much trash was being generated. The food service employees went to the food service director to ask if practices could change…and they did! Food service decided to switch to pump bottles once the ketchup and syrup packets ran out, and they disbanded the requirement for second trays for pizza. This demonstrates how important it is to talk to the folks “on the ground” in the lunchroom – they really see what is going on and how much waste is created every day. They have excellent suggestions about how to reduce food waste but are not always empowered to make such changes. The We Future Cycle program can help facilitate these discussions in schools to teach everyone to be more mindful about the substantial waste generated in schools every day.

As always, the results were incredible! The three grades generated 62.5 lbs of lunch leftovers in one day, and 92% of lunchroom leftovers were diverted into liquid, commingled recycling, and composting streams. The breakdown was as follows.
Liquid: 6lbs (10% of total weight)
Commingled (hard plastics and aluminum for recycling): 10lbs (16%)
Compost (food and paper): 37lbs (59%)
Trays (also will be composted): 4.5lbs (7%)
Trash: 5lbs (8%)

In addition to the lunchroom sorting, Principal Scarantino wanted to do composting in the hallways immediately. Students bring any snack leftovers out to the compost buckets in the hallway stations. This eliminates the need for liners in the trash cans in the classrooms, as there is no liquid or food waste in the classroom bins.

Lastly, the PTSA manages a garden at the school, and the students help keep it tidy. Now with the food scrap compost bins on site, the students are able to compost the yard waste as well by placing it in the bins!

We are so happy to have Bellows on board and look forward to our continued work in the Rye Neck Schools!

 

Osborn Elementary in Rye, NY Achieves a 97% Waste Diversion Rate!

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Osborn PTO Co-President Susan Drouin and her son stand proudly by the recycling & composting station!
Today Osborn Elementary School became the 3rd (and final) elementary school in Rye, NY, to implement the We Future Cycle lunchroom recycling and composting program.  Amazingly, each of the 3 Rye elementary schools achieved a 97% waste diversion rate. 
The waste audit revealed the following results. There were 154 lbs total waste (for about 600 students), including:
Liquid: 33lbs (21%)
Commingled (hard plastic, cartons & juice boxes): 29 lbs (19%)
Compost (food & paper): 62 lbs (40%)
Trays (also compostable): 25 lbs (16%)
Trash: 5 lbs (3%)
Only 3% of the lunchroom waste was trash!
Head custodian Tim Connick built 2 recycling stations with countertops; he drilled holes into the countertops, revealing the bins for recycling and waste materials underneath. The counters help keep the system well-organized.  The lunchroom aides were extremely engaged and helped the students adjust to the new system.
As usual, the kids were thrilled with their new lunchtime activity and with creating a healthy environment! Many children ran over to the recycling station with their eyes wide and mouths open in astonishment that launch day was finally here. You would have thought it was Christmas morning and they’d just seen the presents that Santa left under the tree! Their enthusiasm will surely continue as Osborn students are a very thoughtful group. During our classroom presentations to train the K-5 children, they asked “Where does aluminum foil come from?” “How many bags of trash has our school already generated this year?,” “Why don’t we reuse trays?,” and “How do cars get recycled?”  We hope they continue to be inquisitive and apply everything they learn to their lives!
Thank you to the Osborn administration, teachers, aides, PTO and students for giving the We Future Cycle team such a warm welcome and for your commitment to ensuring a healthy environment in the Rye community!

 

Milton Elementary in Rye Reduces Lunch Waste by 97%!

Milton Elementary launched the We Future Cycle lunchroom recycling and composting program, joining Midland Elementary as the 2nd elementary school in Rye, N.Y. to reduce its lunch waste by 97%!

Milton parent Lesley Reidy and 2nd grade teacher Dayna Reist led the charge to bring the program to the school.  Head custodian Billy Salisbury was the behind-the-scenes hero.  At the end of the last school year, he began to separate the liquids from the waste stream and also had students stack their trays instead of dumping them in the trash with the rest of their leftovers; this change alone reduced the trash from 10-12 bags to 2 bags every day!  His work demonstrated that even small changes make a huge difference in school lunch waste.

Then, Billy and Rye’s Facilities Director, Sam Carder, built a counter to give the recycling station a permanent home. While this is not a “must-have” when launching the program, it’s a nice touch to keep all the bins organized in the proper place every day.  And, it looks great!

After two days of training students in their classrooms, we were ready to launch, eagerly anticipating the results. Our waste audit showed that Milton’s 413 students generate about 95 lbs per waste every day.  Once separated into recycling and composting streams, the waste broke down like this:

Liquid: 22 lbs (23% of total by weight)
Commingled (plastic, cartons and foil): 14 lbs (15%)
Compost (food and paper): 40 lbs (42%)
Trays (also for compost): 16 lbs (17%)
Trash: 3 lbs (3%)

This result is tremendous! A special thank you to the Milton PTO for sponsoring the program and to Principal Dr. Nardone for her support as well. We are thrilled to have Milton on board, and we look forward to bringing additional environmental education to the school in the future.

Who Are The Best Environmental Advocates? Students!

When we launch the We Future Cycle program at schools, we work with administrators, custodians, aides, and food service to get the mechanics of the program implemented and humming.  However, ultimately the goal is to give program ownership to the students.  They are the ones who must learn to separate their lunch leftovers into the appropriate bins, and they are the ones who bring the recycling message home to their families and extended communities.

Fortunately, this is not hard to do!  Students absolutely love sorting their lunch leftovers…it’s fun!  As well, they thoroughly understand that their actions have a direct benefit on the environment, and they know that what they do makes a difference.

This said, even enthusiastic students need to know that their principals, school lunch aides, and parents support the program to foster sustained compliance, and students also need a refresher from time to time about how the lunchroom sorting works.  Fortunately at the BMP Ridge Street School in the Blind Brook District, a 5th grader took it upon himself to spearhead that refresher!

Click here to watch a clip from the student presentation! https://www.dropbox.com/s/h94yg0f3mttkj5j/RSS%20Recycling%20Pres.m4v?dl=0

Jackson Welde, 5th grade student, noticed that his peers were becoming a bit sloppy in the lunchroom, so he asked his principal if he could create a presentation to show at the monthly school-wide student assembly.  (Click on the image to view a segment of the presentation.) The principal enthusiastically said “Yes!” and within a couple months, this presentation happened.  The K-5 students were attentive listeners, and they learned compelling facts about plastic and paper waste as well as about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  The presentation reminded students that properly sorting their leftovers in the lunchroom has ramifications to the health of their own environment, as well as to the environment around the world.

We Future Cycle encourages students to lead the environmental initiatives in their schools by making presentations such as these, as well as through Green Writing Contests, environmental education, and many other projects.  Giving students ownership of environmental programs promotes the values and responsibility necessary to instill a lifetime of environmental stewardship.

White Plains Ridgeway Students Compost All Classroom Food waste

Check out these two recycling rangers from White Plains Ridgeway Elementary School.

20170104_104701_1They are bringing the organic snack waste from their classroom to the lunchroom. There it is combined with the food waste that will  be composted. White Plains has adopted the We Future Cycle Recycling Program last year and is working hard to make its schools a waste free environment. And Ridgeway is very much on its way.

The lunchroom has reduced garbage by a whopping 95% through sorting and diversion into recycling and composting and each classroom is doing the same thing.

Students learned in We Future Cycle presentations how to reduce snack waste by choosing naturally unwrapped foods as well as using reusable containers. Each time a student was waste free he or she got a leaf to paste on the “Ridgeway Caring Tree” and the tree looks beautiful and very “leafy”.

20170104_104939Every day, students of all grades bring their organics down to the lunchroom and carefully clean their pail. Head Custodian Pedro Molina reports that there is practically nothing in the trash at the end of the day.

 

New Rochelle Trinity Students Digging In Dirt and Loving It

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Inspecting Soil Samples

What happens to the food waste that New Rochelle students are sorting out in the lunchroom to be composted? How does composting work and is it really worth the effort? Those were questions that New Rochelle Trinity 5th graders are learning the answers to.

We Future Cycle, a not-for- profit organisation specialized in large scale sustainability programs has been working with Trinity Elementary school and its 1000+ students for years now. Source separation and words like commingled and compost are second nature to these kids.

In classroom presentations, students learned what happens to food that is put into a landfill, they learned about harmful Methane as potent green house gas and  large contributor to global warming and they learned about the chemical processes that take place inside a compost pile. Giggles and audible gasps were heard when they learned that each one of them is a decomposer as the banana that might go into their mouth does not come out quite like a banana again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe best part was digging in the dirt as they got to examine up close and personal four different soil samples. Inspecting them while looking for color, texture,  water retention capabilities and  organic matter content gave them a deep understanding of the connection between healthy soils and its ability to grow food.

Each worm they found was greeted with cheers and great enthusiasm.

Trinity’s 5th graders have learned now that treating food waste as garbage is wasting a valuable resource. Making compost from food waste and leaves is making black gold, and it saves a lot of money.

For more information:

https://wefuturecycle.com/2014/11/20/why-food-composting-can-save-westchesters-taxpayer-money-big-time/

 

 

 

White Plains Eastview Middle School Joins We Future Cycle Program

A big shout out to White Plains’ Eastview Middle School Principal Joseph Cloherty who boldy went where no-one has gone before. Right on day one of the school year 2016-17 he had his incoming 6th graders sort their waste for the first time using the We Future Cycle Lunchroom Recycling Program.

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Principal Cloherty knew that consistency and continuity are important lessons to learn, as 3/5th of his incoming student body was coming from White Plains elementary schools which already run the We Future Cycle program: Ridgeway, Church St and Post Rd.

Eastview Middle School is for 6th graders alone, and it is under construction right now with wonderful upgrades in the making, but not quite finished yet.  So, adding to the challenges of being in a new building and learning the new recycling system on Day One of school, students were also dealing with an unfinished cafeteria that was serving packaged box lunches, instead of cooked meals.

However, with the help of the custodial staff under head custodian Cristian Reyes and the Teaching Assistants under Ms. Julie, students were guided through the process by the experienced We Future Cycle staff. Students and staff learned quickly and after 6 days of sorting, we have proudly achieved a 91% reduction in waste because of students who do correct and independent sorting.

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Recovered Food from half of one lunch period

A waste audit showed that Eastview students divert daily 91 % of their waste into composting and recycling.  They also save 65  lbs  of untouched foods from going into the garbage every day. Sixy-five pounds of untouched food translates into 4 crates of milk cartons, fruit cups, carrot sticks,  yogurt cups, wrapped sandwiches, and cheese sticks. This food is now recovered and donated, thanks to the wonderful food service crew under leadership of Manager Laura Ackerly.

Eastview Middle School is doing a phenomenal job and next year its graduates will be moving the program up the line into Highland Middle school for 7th and 8th grade. Growing the program through the grades is how it becomes second nature to all ages, bringing change not only to the students and the school, but also to the communities that these students call home.

 

White Plains School District is Solving the Individual Ketchup Pouch Problem

tumblr_kxhn6hra6r1qz8u8ho1_400Individual ketchup pouches are an environmental nightmare in school lunchrooms. The students tend to take them by the fistful, they are fun to step on, and they always end up in the source separated food waste as contaminant. So, why is it so difficult to get rid of them?

Commercial Food service providers list their convenience as the number one reason for usage.

However, convenience for Food Service Providers comes with a high price tag to the schools.

White Plains School District Food Service Director Ed Marra has eliminated individual Ketchup pouches from all schools, replacing them with refillable squeeze bottles, saving money and the environment.

And under the guidance of Laura Mungin, Principal of George Washington Elementary School, the Teaching Assistants are going even further by actually serving the kids as they want, thus making sure nobody is just pumping the pump for the fun of it. A win win situation. Students experience individual care, food is not wasted nor abused as toy, and students are learning proper table behavior.

The advantages are clear.

We Future Cycle is working for years to eliminate single service Ketchup pouches from the menu of the many districts we are working in. May White Plains GW Elementary school be a shining example that there are much better ways than giving in to the convenience of commercial Food Service Providers.