One of the added benefits of teaching young children about recycling is, that they LOVE the hands-on sorting portion. And at least one of the cute youngsters will want to sit on my lap during the presentation. It is just delicious having bright eyed 3 year olds in front (and on top) of you and asking them to identify a material and then place it in the correct recycling bin.
Family Services of Westchester is serving White Plains youngest students in their seven head start centers throughout White Plains. As the We Future Cycle recycling program is now running in all White Plains public schools, reducing garbage by a whopping 97% through diversion into recycling, excess liquid and composting streams, it made sense to incorporate the little ones already. Get ’em young and they will learn for life.
With wonderful support by each center director and the program director, even 3 year olds will learn that their actions matter and make a difference.
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!
All of White Plains elementary and middle schools are running the We Future Cycle recycling program in their lunchroom. All schools have reduced their waste by a whopping 95-98%, and are looking at just a few pounds of soft plastic as garbage coming out of their lunchroom, down from the hundreds. All the rest is either excess liquid, commingled recycling or food waste to be composted.
Before implementation these school generated a combined 1317 lbs of waste each day, resulting in daily White Plains garbage trucks to empty bulging 6 yard trash containers.
Since implementation, each custodian is casually slinging a single fluffy bag of garbage composed of plastic baggies, chip baggies or cookie wrappers over his pinky finger to carry outside. Lonely this bag sits in the container until it gets joined by the night clean garbage. So, all schools combined generate a mere 44 lbs of garbage out of breakfast and lunch together. WOW!
Here is that data extrapolated for the full school year of 180 days. A reduction of 118 tons of garbage through simple sorting. That is incredible!
White Plains schools are not stopping there, the race is on for zero waste!
We Future Cycle has also implemented a robust building wide sorting program, placing signage and recycling bins in each classroom, office and at strategic spots in the hallways. Regularly, we weigh and spot check what is being discarded and are delighted to report that some schools have reduced their building waste to a mere 25 lbs! From 700+ students.
White Plains schools are competing with each other towards zero waste! A worthwhile goal.
This is what 25 lbs of garbage looks like from a large middle school!
Compare this to just lunch waste from one school without sorting.
Students looked somewhat bored when they heard that they will learn about water and one student piped up smartly :”I know, I know it’s H2O, has a Ph of 7 and can exist in liquid, solid and gaseous state”
With a smile, I asked that student where her water comes from and after a fraction of hesitation came a much more subdued “out of the faucet”…… phrased more like a question than a statement. And she was suddenly wide awake and much more interested.
New Rochelle School District understands that environmental literacy cannot stop at the lunchroom recycling but should be carried throughout the curriculum to have students internalize that their every day actions have a big impact on the environment. Albert Leonard Middle School has invited Anna Giordano into the classroom and students are learning as a curriculum add-on about the environmental foot print of something as mundane as turning on the faucet.
Walking students through where their drinking water comes from, what steps it has to go through before it arrives conveniently at their kitchen faucet was quite eye opening for them.
A collective gasp was heard upon being asked what they think happens when they flush.
Students took a second to process the word “Bio Solids” but quickly chuckled. Seeing pictures of the New Rochelle Waste Water Treatment plant put into prospective the monumental task it is to keep society going.
We covered the steps in the Waste Water Treatment plant and how communities have implemented waste water to drinking water programs. Students shuddered by the thought of former toilet water making its way back into the faucet, but realized at some point that reality requires this and it is ultimately cheaper than ocean water desalination.
And learning about the marketing hoax of bottled water was the true eye-opener for students. Can you imagine 7th graders coming up to express thanks for teaching them about water? Well, it was heartwarming and truly special!
Last night, We Future Cycle hosted an informational table at the White Plains Mamaroneck Avenue School at the Back -To- School Open House. Talking to parents showed that even the K students with only about 10 days of lunchroom sorting under their (tiny) belts brought the information about recycling home and some even effected change already. It was heart warming to hear parents say how excited their kids were about being part to save the world. One mother shared with me that her son told her on day two that she needed to get another bin to sort out recyclables (which she did)
One father shared with me that the favorite word of his brand new kindergarten student is commingled and he sits at dinner and identifies the different materials he sees.
To give some background, White Plains School district hired We Future Cycle in 2015 to implement the recycling program in its elementary schools, moving into the middle schools by 2016 and now starting the HS school. Administration at MAS has been outstanding supporters of this program and this percolates through the building. Students are lining up to help at the recycling stations, students are signing up to help sweep and wipe tables, every single classroom has a recycling stations and while walking the building it was heartwarming to see that every single bin was perfectly sorted.
This proves that environmental education in schools can change communities. It teaches responsibility and personal commitment. All life long lessons. Hats off to MAS students for being the change we want to see in this world.
New Rochelle High School is the largest HS in Westchester County New York, it is more like a college campus with sprawling hallways and mind-boggling amounts of students spilling out of classrooms when the bell rings. 3 cafeterias are on campus feeding these youngsters and until recently were generating a whopping 100 large bags of garbage e.v.e.r.y…s.i.n.g.l.e…l.u.n.c.h ! Filling up 3 dumpsters to the brim just from lunch, and another two large dumpsters from night clean.
New Rochelle School District has embraced the We Future Cycle Recycling Program and steps were put into place over the summer to include the High School. Principal Richardson admitted that he was beyond skeptical about how this program could possibly work in a huge building like the High School. He however vowed his full support.
In order for a recycling program to work, one has to address all players in the building. We Future Cycle did presentations to students, custodial staff, and security personal to outline just how we are all affected by garbage and how simple changes of behavior can make a HUGE difference. Putting the new knowledge to action, students started to sort their waste in the different cafeterias and learned that by simply sorting into excess liquid, commingled recycling and food waste for compost, 90% of the waste is captured and sent to reusable streams.
Only 10% of the High School waste was trash. A 90% reduction of lunch waste is huge, looking at the sheer number of players involved. Instead of filling up trash containers, the high school is now filling up commingled recycling containers and food waste bins to be composted. Way to go!
Principal Richardson is exceedingly proud of his student body and is working with his Science Chair to integrate Environmental and Sustainability Education as Curriculum Add On.