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.
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!
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.
Check out these two recycling rangers from White Plains Ridgeway Elementary School.
They 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”.
Every 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.
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.
The 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.
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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.
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.
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.
Individual 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.