Tag Archives: schoollunchrecycling

Milton Elementary in Rye Reduces Lunch Waste by 97%!

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.

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Who Are The Best Environmental Advocates? Students!

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!

Click here to watch a clip from the student presentation! https://www.dropbox.com/s/h94yg0f3mttkj5j/RSS%20Recycling%20Pres.m4v?dl=0

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.

Recycling at a Middle School? Not for the faint hearted but New Rochelle Isaac Young MS pulled it off flawlessly

Any parent of a middle schooler can attest to the level of difficulty of making their youngster do anything out of the ordinary, especially if it does not involve electronics.

New Rochelle Isaac Young MS just joined the growing group of schools to have introduced the We Future Cycle Recycling Program. This program reduces waste by sorting materials into excess liquid, recyclable material, compost and untouched food to be donated. Isaac Young MS results were particularly astounding.

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348 lbs of unsorted garbage

From 348 lbs down to a mere 7.5 lbs, from 20 bulging and dripping bags to one single fluffy one.

Under the guidance of Assistant Principal Dan Gonzales and Head Custodian Bill Coleman, the school systematically put the program in place. The We Future Cycle Executive Director presented to all teachers, all security staff, all custodial and night clean staff and finally to all the students the detrimental effects of garbage on our environment and how easy it is to sort the waste into recyclable and compostable avenues.

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This is what 7.5 lbs of soft plastic looks like.

Teachers reported how shocked they were to learn about the cost of garbage removal to the tax payer and to society at large. Students reported that they had no idea that something as easy as sorting could make such a huge difference.

All of Isaac Young 6th graders had gone through the program already in their elementary schools and fell right back into the routine. 7th and 8th graders are adjusting nicely to the “new normal”. Both lunchroom cleaners as well as the head custodian are reporting that they were skeptical in the beginning but upon seeing the amazing results are fully on board.

We Future Cycle is excited to be also part of the newly created Recycling Club to bring even more environmental awareness to the students. Plans are in place to use the lunchroom walls for student made educational materials outlining the environmental foot print and end of life cycle challenges of packaging materials they hold in their hand on a daily basis.

Recycling at a Middle School, not for the faint hearted but New Rochelle Isaac Young MS pulled it off flawlessly. Way to go!

White Plains Head Custodian Support is Key to Success of Recycling Program

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Darrel Kidd removing contamination

Getting down to grab a misplaced yogurt cup out of the compost bin is not for the faint hearted, but it is essential for the success of the We Future Cycle recycling program.

This program teaches students to sort their lunchroom waste into excess liquids, recyclables, compostables and untouched food. And low and behold, only 2-5% of the initial amount is actually trash.

White Plains George Washington Elementary School Head Custodian Darrel Kidd supports the program 100%. He says, it makes his life much easier because now, he does not have to bring a single bag of garbage out until the very end of lunch, when he cleans up the station. And then he casually slings the 6 lbs bag over his pinky finger. Because 6 lbs of trash is all that comes out of the school of 630 students. Down from 235 lbs, a 98% reduction.

Biggest challenges in each school is crowd control so that the kids are not falling over each other while recycling at the station. Mr Kidd is the master of untangling traffic jams at the station, he supervises that nothing but food and paper goes into the compost bin all the while keeping the kids in the flow.

Ownership of the program within the school is the key to success and the custodial staff of White Plains GW school is owning this program for good! Way to go.

 

New Rochelle Columbus Students Pledging to Make Good Choices

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Principal Michael Galland introduces We Future Cycle

As a sustainability consultants to the largest school districts in Westchester County, We Future Cycle presenters get to talk to many students, personally my favorite part of the job.

I usually bring a full bag of all kinds of packaging material which I theatrically empty onto a table in front of the students and then neatly arrange the empty bottles, empty cups, empty wrappers, empty boxes, empty bags, empty juice pouches. I remain quiet while listening to the students wondering aloud what I was doing with all that garbage. Some positively snare at it.

I then ask the students what I brought them, holding up a random empty packaging item. A kindergarten student would tell me exactly what I held in my hand…a bottle, ….a can…. a fork. By 2nd grade latest,  I get disgusted shout outs of “garbage!”, or “trash”…..with the occasional “recycling” thrown in.

I start by telling them that I did not bring them trash. I pause. They are quiet and bewildered. Then I tell them that I did not bring them recycling. Again I pause. By now, the students are clearly confused, but their interest is very much peaked, there is no sound to be heard, they are anxiously awaiting my answer. And then I tell them, that I brought them material and they decide every time they discard something if it becomes recycling or trash, just by choosing the right bin. Walking them through the example of building with lego brings the concept “many small pieces make something usable, which can be broken down again into small pieces” very much home to them. They got that. When I asked them if they would ever consider throwing their lego in the garbage, they emphatically call out “no” and when I ask them if they ever considered throwing their left over sandwich into the lego box, they paused for a split second and also called out “no”, but in that split second, they got it. They got that everything has its place and mixing it is no good.

Teaching them from here on was a breeze. At the end,  when I asked them if they are going to make good choices now as to where they put their material, I got an enthusiastic positive response. New Rochelle Columbus students are pledging to make every time they have to discard something the right choice! Way to go, Columbus!

 

White Plains GW Elementary School Reduces Garbage by 98 %

Check out that pile of sorted out trays! Today was the big roll out day of the We Future Cycle Recycling Program in the 4th Elementary School of White Plains. The waste audit yesterday revealed that GW with its 650 students generated normally 16 bags of trash, weighing 235 lbs. All students went through class by class presentation by experienced WFC staff that skillfully walked the children through the realization that just because a food packaging is empty, it does not mean it is garbage and thus useless. Students learned that most of their everyday lunchroom packaging is fully recyclable if just sorted out, and they also learned that by sorting out the food waste, we could create compost, a valuable resource.

Looking at pictures of the piles of garbage from their school, generated from lunch and night clean, and then learning that there is no “away” for garbage was eye opening even for the littlest one. When asked if they were ready to save the world by sorting their waste into the right bin, they were READY!

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And they showed it in the lunchroom! Under wonderful guidance of the entire TA staff, and great personal engagement by the head custodian, the students, from K through 5 pulled off a wonderful job and reducing their garbage by a whopping 98% by sorting the materials into Food Waste for composting, Commingled for Recycling, Excess Liquid to go down the drain, and untouched food to be donated. From 291 lbs only 6.5 lbs were actually trash, one small fluffy bag, instead of the 16 heavy dripping and bulging bags from yesterday.

 

That is truly something to write home about. All of GW students can be proud that they are making a real difference every day now.

 

Back-to-School Tips for Packing Waste-Free Lunches

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!