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.
At We Future Cycle one of the biggest challenges we see with lunchroom waste is the plastic baggies kids bring from home. We are able to compost and recycle 95% of lunchroom waste, and the remaining 5% is plastic bags and chip bags that go into the trash.
It’s easy to eliminate this waste, however, if lunches are packed in reusable plastic containers (i.e., Tupperware) or in one of the handy reusable wraps and containers shown in this video! Teach your child to be responsible for waste by packing his or her lunch in a reusable container. Be the leader in changing wasteful lunch-packing habits!
On May 19, The Ossining Documentary & Discussion Series hosted a screening of the documentary “Just Eat It!,” followed by a panel discussion featuring Anna Giordano, Executive Director of We Future Cycle, Sarah Womer, Founder & Executive Director of Zero-to-Go and Alison Jolicoeur, Director of Second Chance Foods.
Each panelist described the work they do to reduce food waste. Those of you who follow this blog know that We Future Cycle implements school recycling and composting programs; Zero-to-Go are experts at making any event ‘waste-free’; and Second Chance Foods rescue food from farms, grocery stores, and restaurants which would otherwise be trashed and bring it to community service organizations to provide meals for people in need.
The panelists also discussed the opportunities and challenges with implementing a county-wide composting facility in Westchester to help reclaim food waste from both commercial and residential locations. See the full panel discussion here:
Check out how these Trinity Elementary Students are carefully pasting their waste free leaf to the tree.
Liam Sparano (K, Ms Hawkins class) has received already 6 leaves ” I eat healthy snacks to get energy to grow big and strong like Superman”.
Trinity Elementary School students are proudly pasting paper leaves with their names to the Waste Free Tree that is taking up most of the wall in the front lobby. This Waste Free Tree symbolizes the change Trinity students are making in terms of snack packaging. Only students whose mid morning snack is completely waste free will earn a leaf and the opportunity to paste it to the tree. Students that are waste free and also super healthy will be able to earn a bonus leaf. And ….. this tree is sprouting leaves like crazy!
Jayden Henry has received 5 leaves. Jayden said, “I tell my Mommy I need a healthy snack every day”
Valeria Gutierrez has 4 leaves- She said, “I remind my Daddy in the morning to not use plastic baggies and I need fruit or rice cakes for snack”
We Future Cycle, a non profit organization specialized in bringing large scale sustainability programs to schools was hired to turn New Rochelle on a path toward sustainability. 4 presenters did class by class presentations to over 1000 students, helping them make the connection that snacks that are healthy for their body are often also healthy for the Earth as they come naturally unpackaged.
Even kindergarten students, when presented with a picture of the packaging waste of classroom snack knew immediately that most of that food belonged into the category of junk food. When asked if that food was healthy for their body, they all enthusiastically replied “no”. They listed the commonly known reasons on why not to eat junk food, even the littlest ones knew the connection to obesity, diabetes and dental decay, amazing.
It was a rainy day when We Future Cycle did the “before recycling” waste audit at the White Plains Elementary School. Mountains of trash bags from lunch had been piled up just outside the building to be weighed and counted before being brought to the large container by Custodian Rob Dell’Orletta. Every single bag, bulging, dripping milk and being wet from the rain was weighed and results were added up. Post Rd Elementary school looked at 27 bags, weighing a total of 277 lbs. It was very messy and unpleasant. Mr Dell’Orletta was not surprised by the numbers, and confirmed that it is the normal amount, plus about another 6 from breakfast, usually, and some from after school.
He smiled at me, with charming disbelief, when I shared with him that after source separation we will look at one bag weighing less then 5 lbs.
Following classroom by classroom presentations to the students, and prior day presentations to all staff and adult players in the building, the big day finally arrived. Gone were the rows of large 55 gallon grey trashcans from the aisle between the table, gone where the bulging black plastic bags, hanging over the handle of the bins, to have quick replacements at hand. Mr Dell’Orletta looked somewhat worriedly when he saw me removing all his prepared replacement bags. We Future Cycle set up two recycling stations against the far side of the lunchroom, removed all large barrels, with its black bags and replaced them with smaller colorful bins, clear bags or no bags, and large signage on what each bin is for. I did not put any replacement bags on handles, explaining that I did not think we will need to empty any of them until the very end of lunch. Another disbelieving, but very hopeful smile from Mr Dell’Orletta.
Lunch time came and went, and as with all first days to teach 650 students to sort, it was a blur.
The results, however, were not blurry at all. Instead of 277 lbs of trash, Post Rd is proudly looking upon 3.5 lbs ! A 98% reduction
All the rest was either excess liquid, recycling, composting or untouched food to be donated to the local soup kitchen.
Ms Ossorio, principal, was giddy with pride and joy, and rightfully so, her students just proved that making a difference is very possible. And Post Rd students did it in a timely fashion too, on the first day! That is truly something to write home about.
Today was a big day at Rye’s Midland Elementary School. With great support and enthusiasm of Principal Jim Boylan, Assistant Principal Joanna Napolitano and the PTO, under the leadership of Cali Gibbs and Emily Keenan, Midland’s students made a huge splash of a difference!
The We Future Cycle team went from classroom to classroom to present the program, show the different materials, answer questions, model the process and stir up a big energetic frenzy to save the world. These students were READY to make a difference.
In the lunchroom the newly installed station was put into action, and despite the most challenging of lunch menu days, which is brunch for lunch with syrup containers, the students pulled off a flawless sorting.
The results speak for themselves. From 161 lbs of total waste:
Only 2.8% of the entire lunchroom waste was actually trash!