Tag Archives: polystyrene

Planting A Trash Garden, Hands on Teaching about Decomposition

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Cutting up fruits and vegetables, hunting for seeds

Even  a 3 year old knows that a wrapper flying through the air on the street is not suppose to be there. When asked if that wrapper ever goes away, the little boy stopped to think a bit and then came  a timid “no” ,  with a question mark at the end. Talking about “away” is a common topic at the Little Leaf Nursery School in Hastings these days and the students are learning.

Just recently We Future Cycle introduced  recycling and composting  and the students are now seasoned recyclers, knowing where materials go and where the food waste goes. They all reported that they feed the tumbler and they help tumbling.

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Learning about seeds, what can grow  and decomposition while making a trash garden

To bring decomposition even closer, we created a trash garden with the students today. We cut up some fruits and vegetables, looked at the seeds and planted them together with strips of aluminum foil, corners of paper, a hard plastic bottle cap, some soft plastic wrappers and some cut up fruit and veggie peel.

The students learned about prediction and we tried to predict what would grow from the things we just planted.  We will now keep our “trash garden” nicely watered and observe the changes.

 

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.

Mamaroneck’s Hommocks Middle School to Join the We Future Cycle Program

Under the decisive leadership of Hommocks Middleschool Principal Dr Seth Weitzman, students will be learning hands on about sustainability. Dr Weitzman asked We Future Cycle to help with the implementation of the lunchroom as well as the building wide recycling program.

Representatives from PTA, teachers and staff took part in a meeting today to shape this upcoming environmental as well as social initiative. Dr Weitzman has been planning this well, writing and recently receiving a grant from the Mamaroneck Education Foundation to cover the cost.

Over the summer, plans will be put into place and come September 1st,  Hommocks students are going to make a big difference. According to their head custodian, the school is generating 31 bags of garbage at lunch as well as 20 bags from night clean. We expect that 90-95 percent of that can be diverted into recycling and composting.

We Future Cycle is excited to be working with Hommocks.

New Rochelle Columbus Parents Eagerly Helping Students To Learn About Sustainability

Columbus Elementary School has recently implemented the We Future Cycle School Lunch RIMG_0297ecycling program and under the leadership of incoming PTA President Karina Torres, many very  engaged parents at the Columbus Elementary School are stepping up to the plate….. or better, the  source separation station…to help teach students about Sustainability.

IMG_0322During each lunch period the stations are filled with exuberant students, donned with yellow reusable gloves, teaching others how to sort properly, under the watchful eyes of the parent helpers.

Karina Torres shared : “I am happy to see how the students ask me if I can ask their parents to come to school to help with the recycling project.”
Laura Flores commented with a smile : “I am impressed at the student helpers.  They are informative at directing their fellow schoolmates to show them where each recycling item goes, these children are our future recycle savvy.”
And the ultimate proof that environmental education in schools can change the community was shared by Maricela Jimenez: “I will now start to make changes to my everyday use of items…a simple change is to use reusable containers rather than ziploc bags which creates more trash”.

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Many parents commented that it was an interesting experience to see their children in the lunchroom environment and they really enjoyed being part of this project.  Some mothers expressed shock at the amount of food that is wasted. Every day, the students are sorting out untouched food items into a share basket. A typical lunch will generate 2-3 copy paper boxes of untouched food.

IMG_0292Araceli Perez: “I find it very interesting how all the students, staff, and parent volunteers work together to teach one another the methods of recycling. My daughter now teaches every one at home that there are other forms of recycling such as food waste is for compost.”

Ms. Owens, Assistant Principal, Anna Giordano and Maggie Dickensen (Whitson Food Service Manager) are working together to reduce the food the children are taking but not eating, as well as how to channel the untouched food to the local needy.

Ms. Nunez, Principal, is very proud of how Columbus School has embraced this program and rightfully so!

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.

We Future Cycle to present at Bedford 2020 “Beyond Waste” Fair

b20-BeyondWaste-flyer-v7On May 13th at 6:30 to 8:30 pm, We Future Cycle is invited to be part of the Bedford 2020 Beyond Waste Fair. We will have an informational table as well as be part of a round table discussion.

We are looking forward to spreading our message to bring sustainability education into schools through hands-on source separation in the lunchrooms and buildings.

Larchmont Green Expo, A Great Success

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe  Future Cycle had a vendor table at the Larchmont Green Expo, what a wonderful event. It was very well attended and many visitor were very interested in what we are doing.

Ashley was using magic to lure them to our table (we had a plate with Girl Scout cookies……) and while munching they learned about the program.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimultaneously we ran a recycling sorting game for the children, and it was very heart warming to see how much some children already knew.

Goodbye Styrofoam. City Schools to Serve Lunch on ‘Green’ Trays

Here is a great article by Topher Forhecz about New York City’s decision to eliminate Styrofoam trays and switch to round plates made of sugar cane byproduct, starting this fall.  This initiative is “the first result of the Urban School Food Alliance –- comprised of Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago and New York City — which formed in 2012 to boost the schools’ purchasing power in the private sector.”  Read the full article here.

NYC, Miami, Chicago and many more School Districts are ditching Styrofoam trays

The largest School districts in the country have finally woken up to the fact that schools, and the kids that are in those schools are the biggest players in environmental and sustainable planning.

Doing an Earthday project and then calling it done as far as it goes for instruction around sustainability is NOT ENOUGH.

Fortunately, the largest school districts are starting to wake up, that life is not disposable around us and that it is not cheaper and better to serve children on disposable Styrofoam trays. BTW, these trays are made of Polystyrene which has been classified as “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” by the US Dept of Health in 2011.

Here is an excellent read on that topic. Some Westchester school districts are already following suit, but some is not enough. Westchester incinerates its garbage and guess who is breathing the air after burning 100.000 Styrofoam trays per day.

http://ecowatch.com/2013/12/05/schools-ditch-styrofoam-for-compostable/

Styrofoam Used in New Rochelle’s Lunchroom Classified as ” reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” by US Department of Health

 

I shared this at the New Rochelle Board of Education Meeting on February 4th, 2014

Dear Board,

I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr Korostoff.

Ever since he took the helm of this school district, he has been incredibly supportive of recycling. He, as an educator, immediately understood that for children to learn to respect Earth and its resources is as important as reading and writing. As a matter of fact, it is actually called “Environmental Literacy”. That is what I want New Rochelle students to become: environmentally literate. And with that knowledge change will come to our communities. But it has to start in the schools and schools have to be the good example.

For a school to be a good example means to eliminate disposables that are used in the school, which brings me back to these dreaded Styrofoam trays, these awful plastic spork packages and other single serve packaging currently used in the schools.

You have heard from me plenty of times why Styrofoam trays are bad for the children, bad for the environment and bad for the bottom line. You have mostly gravely nodded your head in approval or maybe just out of good manners. However, the banning of Styrofoam from New Rochelle’s lunchrooms is in your hands and your hands alone. Continue reading Styrofoam Used in New Rochelle’s Lunchroom Classified as ” reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” by US Department of Health