Tag Archives: garbage

Where do Westchester’s recyclables actually go?

That was the subject of a recent series of presentation to Elmsford HS students. AHHS has implemented the WeFutureCycle recycling program in the fall and is maintaining a 94% diversion rate through recycling and composting. Students are now pretty much on auto pilot when they come up to the recycling station to quickly sort their left over into recycling, composting or trash. Every day, Elmsford HS produces one bulging bag of recyclables from the lunchroom and another one from the kitchen that go to the Westchester Material Recovery Facility in Yonkers .

Learning about the amount of trees felled every day for our daily paper, paper towels or milk cartons literally made them groan. Realizing where aluminum comes from they casually use to wrap their sandwich shocked them, and understanding that plastic in the environment can be a death sentence to all kinds of animals brought some of them actually to tears.

Civilization with its packaging takes a great toll on this planet. Elmsford students are learning every day that being the solution is as easy as changing a few hand movements and becoming conscious about oneself in the greater scheme of things.

Elmsford 1st graders make a difference

Recently, We Future Cycle introduced its recycling program to the Carl Dixson Elementary School in Elmsford. This school houses Elmsford’s youngest, pre-K through 1st grade and it is now bustling with green activities.

Students as young as 4 years old learned that their daily small actions can make a huge difference. They learned about what happens to the things they “throw away” They learned that there is no “away” on this Earth. The content of the garbage can goes somewhere and they were quite shocked to see what a landfill looks like and what an incinerator does to all of our air. All students agreed that we all have to take care of our Earth.

First graders wrote about what they learned and drew a picture about it. Here are some of the heartfelt examples

Samola learned that our garbage gets sent to Peekskill and burned and we breathe that air.

Nadia learned that litter kills animals.

Ivy learned that if you litter, the garbage goes into the ocean and hurts animals.

Loredana learned that we can make choices to keep our planet clean.

Changing school culture, one reusable bottle at the time

We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of kids that care and we are so proud to show off the tangible results that hands-on environmental education can bring to schools.

Take a look at this lovely “Reusable water bottle parking area” outside the gym at the Church St school in White Plains.

Seriously…way to go!!

White Plains MAS students learning about packaging materials

White Plains school district has been working with WeFutureCycle for 6 years now and its entire school population is well acquainted with the Recycling station and system in their lunchrooms., The pandemic and the resulting changes in food service put the system on hold for a year.

Now, WeFutureCycle is back to bring environmental literacy to students.

White Plains MAS students just learned in class by class presentation about different packaging and why these materials can be sorted into recycling.

Students as young as K and 1 are very literal in their thinking. When shown a juicebox, they will see JUICE and not the juiceBOX.

Teaching these students to look past the content brings about a whole new level of thinking and even though they were all wearing masks, it was so obvious in their eyes how they were making this very important transition.

After the classroom programs we observed the students putting their new knowledge to test in the lunchroom. It was quite amazing to see the difference in sincerity about their sorting task, now that their heart and head is connected to the hands.

White Plains Eastview students are back to recycling with ease

Lunch at White Plains Eastview school is a well oil machine. Students come in at three lunch periods, get their lunch with hot and cold lunch options and some grab and go components and sit down at their designated table with clear plexiglass individual dividers between each other. Mask rules are strictly enforced and students are only allowed to take the mask off, when seated at their table.

After lunch, students put on their mask and go to the recycling station to sort their lunch waste away. They are calm, relaxed and well versed in what they need to do.

We Future Cycle is proud to be the White Plains School districts recycling coordinator now for 6 years and while the pandemic with its changed packaging requirements made lunch service more challenging, it is a pleasure to see with what normalcy the students sort their waste.

Eastview’s custodial staff is very helpful and keep the stations neat and organized.

It takes a village to raise a child and Eastview is showing that a school community can raise environmental literate students and they make it look easy!

Elmsford joins the WeFutureCycle program

4 lbs of garbage, that is all that was generated in the Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford. One small bag! Down from over 100 lbs in 9 bags. All the remaining material is either compostable or recyclable.

Students watched a WeFutureCycle presentation to learn about the detrimental effects of garbage on our environment and ultimately on life on this planet. They learned that small changes in their daily life can make a huge difference.

Did you know that if one just separates the recyclables from the non recyclables from the compostables, suddenly a 95% of reduction can be had. And it is not just the benefit of reduction of garbage, but it is also the capturing of the resources. The food waste will be composted into nutrient rich soil and the recyclable packaging material will generate resources for the county.

We interviewed some of the students after learning about the program and sorting their lunch for the first time . All of them said that they were surprised to see how little effort it takes to make a difference, and how just a tiny bit of personal commitment can change the world.

We Future Cycle pushing for more sustainable options to feed students

We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of students to care and to reduce garbage as much as possible. This is a 3 pronged approach. We work with the schools directly to set up logistics to allow for separation of materials so these can actually be recycled and composted.

We also present to the entire school community in order to create behavioral change across all players in the building. Changing on how we discard what we deem not to need anymore is a learning curve as it involves a change of heart. Only if people know what becomes of the material that is carelessly discarded, they start to become responsible for their actions, as small as where they place their empty coffee cup.

And lastly, we are working with food service to identify areas where we can replace unneccessary packaging with bulk.

We are very proud that our vocal opposition to EPS trays (Styrofoam) has now resulted in all of Westchester’s school districts to replace them with a compostable alternative.

We are also fighting against pre-wrapped Spork packages that contain a straw, napkin and spork, all wrapped in plastic. Our studies revealed that 70% of all students do not use the spork nor the napkin, thus discarding the materials unused.

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Unused spork package components after lunch

We are also working to replace all single serve condiment pouches with bulk squeeze bottles. Training students to only take what they intend to consume is part and parcel for this effort.

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Ketchup pouches taken but not consumed from one lunch period

We are working to make the school lunch world a greener place, one lunchroom at a time.

The bigger fight is to get washable flatware back into the lunchrooms.

 

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.

NYC Sophomores Write Anti Pollution Legislative Bill

This spring, a class of sophomores at Avenues: The World School in Manhattan, New
York City, studied and researched the detrimental effects of carbon emission and plastic waste.

The excessive plastic waste that humans generate can have many devastating consequences, from contaminating various bodies of water and harming wildlife, to polluting beaches and negatively affecting human health. Avenues’ Class of 2020 sought to make an effort to spread awareness about this issue and, ultimately reduce the waste that humans generate in their daily lives. In order to accomplish this goal and actually create a change, students decided to focus on a specific aspect that could be changed — one that is realistic, familiar and tangible.

This involves the excessive plastic consumption by New York public schools when serving lunches to students. Specifically, the target was attempting to eliminate the usage of Styrofoam trays in school cafeterias, incentivizing schools to use compostable materials instead. Styrene, the main component of polystyrene, is classified as a potential carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The material can take up to one million years to decompose in a landfill — making it a primary pollutant, especially since the material often leaks into water, where animals ingest the dangerous chemicals that polystyrene effuses. New York City public school systems consume approximately 850,000 single-use polystyrene trays per day and every one of those trays negatively affects the environment.

Thus, Avenues students believed that a necessary measure to take was to promote the
usage of compostable trays, which decompose into a natural environment without leaving any traces of toxicity in the soil and have no adverse effects on the planet, rather than Styrofoam.

Many efforts to reduce polystyrene usage have already been made in school districts across the United States, having beneficial effects. Polystyrene was initially outlawed in New York City in July 2015, but this ban was then overturned, backed by one of the largest manufacturers of polystyrene containers: the Restaurant Action Alliance and the Dart Container Corporation.

However, it was reinstated in November 2017, as part of an effort to reach Mayor Bill de
Blasio’s One NYC zero-waste goal by 2030. Avenues sophomores hope to spread this initiative to the rest of New York, beyond the confines of the five boroughs of New York City.

After deciding to reform the process by which school lunches are packaged and served to
students in public schools in order to help make New York more sustainable, the class composed a legislation that incentivized schools to stop using non-biodegradable trays to serve lunches and replace them with those that are compostable. This was achieved by imposing a 5% tax deduction for school lunch that is served using compostable materials. The legislation created by the students states that the deduction will decrease by 1% every year for the first five years that this law is in place, thereby creating an incentive for schools to use compostable materials sooner rather than later.

This legislation, which was subsequently referred to Paul D. Tonko, U.S. Representative of New York’s 20th congressional district, presents a realistic way to become more environmentally conscientious and reduce excessive generation of non-compostable waste.
The protocol described by the legislation, which aims to take effect on the first day of
August 2018 (prior to the start of the 2018-2019 academic year) aims to further efforts that have already been taken to promote sustainability and permanently force all schools to use biodegradable materials at all times — thereby decreasing their carbon footprints altogether, rather than using harmful, non-compostable materials. Prior to writing the actual bill, the team at Avenues researched ways to make a difference, contacting New York public school districts and inquiring about their lunch policies and, specifically, whether they served lunches on Styrofoam trays. Depending on their district, the policies to which schools adhered seemed to vary slightly and many schools seemed to be moving away from Styrofoam trays in their cafeterias, although some still used them.

For instance, students spoke with representatives from every public school
district in White Plains, Rye and New Rochelle, New York and each had implemented a program to only use biodegradable materials in their lunches, rather than plastic which is used in public schools throughout much of the United States.

Each of the districts credited their program to We Future Cycle, a 501c3 charitable organization that guides public school districts in New York towards sustainability and encourages them to generate as little excessive waste as possible, in a conscious effort to, “create a generation of children that are actively involved in recycling and take responsibility for their daily actions,” as their mission states. Instead of working with local congressmen and the government, We Future Cycle contacts each individual district and works with schools to determine feasible ways to reduce waste generation in daily life, such as the processes of vermiculture and teaching children and parents how to pack waste-free lunches. The organization establishes partnerships with others who have developed programs to “bring otherwise non-recyclable items into reusable channels.” Furthermore, We Future Cycle strives to teach students to be responsible and informed consumers, by offering several educational programs directed towards a variety of ages. The founder of this non-profit, Anna Giordano, stated that she started this organization after she witnessed the excessive amount of waste created by her children’s school and suddenly became aware that she needed to take action.

Today, forty  schools in Westchester, New York participate in We Future Cycle and
several organizations in the area endorse the charity, or are affiliated in some way. This number is steadily growing as its outreach expands.

We Future Cycle hopes to empower students, the future of the United States, to become leaders in their community and have their voices heard.
The organization implements these beliefs in children from young ages, so that by the time they are older, they are environmentally-conscious and able to truly make the world a better place in the long-term. Organizations like We Future Cycle and the Avenues sophomores are collaborating to continue their missions of spreading awareness about climate change and the threats of pollution.

As these issues becomes more prevalent in society every day, it is becoming increasingly
important to be informed. In doing this, more opportunities are being created, creating grounds for case studies on these issues in the future. These organizations illuminate that major changes are not what is necessary and, small-scale lifestyle changes such as recycling scrap paper, bottles and cans, or composting leftovers, can actually make a world of difference.

If people are to recognize the extent of the damage that excessive waste generation causes to the environment and themselves, they are more likely to revise their daily routines to become more environmentally-conscious and begin to think, rather than carelessly discarding materials into a landfill where they will remain for millenia. For further information on ways to become more environmentally-conscious, explore We Future Cycle’s website and to learn more about Avenues’ Class of 2020 and their work in forming their own legislation to help the planet, click here.

~ Isabel Mudannayake and Angelo Orciuoli, representatives of the Avenues’ Class of
2020

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.