Tag Archives: Styrofoam

Mamaroneck’s Middle School has Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Rocket Composter

Dr Shaps and Dr Weitzman presenting the We Future Cycle Recycling Program
Dr Shaps and Dr Weitzman presenting the We Future Cycle Recycling Program

Larchmont and Mamaroneck’s Superintendent Dr. Shaps and Hommocks Principal Dr. Seth Weitzman proudly cut the ribbon to the first Rocket Composter at a Westchester public school.

Thanks to a generous grant of the Education Foundation, the purchase of this stainless steel machine that takes food waste and wood chips and 2 weeks later, compost comes out the other end, was made possible. After an additional 4 weeks of maturation, the compost will have finished its nitrification process and the compost can be used in the garden.

We Future Cycle was hired to do the program implementation as well as teaching students how to sort properly. The rocket is a picky eater, it only likes food.

Slide3The additional benefit of the We Future Cycle program is that apart from the food waste, also excess liquids, paper and commingled recycling are sorted out and sent into recycling streams rather then up the Hudson to be burnt as trash. A win win situation for all parties.

As a matter of fact, Hommocks is able to divert a whopping 86% of its waste into recycling or composting streams.

Mamaroneck’s Mayor Mr Rosenblum shared with a smile that his DPW guys already reported to him how much of a difference that makes.

Dr Shaps is very proud of Hommocks success and is looking forward to be implementing the recycling program in the other schools too.

We Future Cycle is proud to be helping with that as well.

 

 

 

 

Tackling Food Waste In School District Lunchrooms To Make A Difference

IMG_0284This is completely untouched food from just one lunch period in one school.

Before schools implemented the We Future Cycle Recycling program, this untouched food went unnoticed right into the garbage can.

unnamed (2)However, now as additional benefit to source separating in the lunchroom this food is sorted into a share basket, ready to be  consumed by either other children within the school during lunch, afterschool program or while being at the nurses office, or donating it to a local soup kitchen. Both is legal, safe and infinitely preferred over just trashing it.

We Future Cycle is often met with resistance when suggesting to donate the sorted out food. Standard practice in the school cafeterias is that if the milk runs out of date over the weekend, instead of donating it on Friday, it is being tossed on Monday, packaging at all.

Arguments given are that food service does not want to be liable should someone get sick when consuming donated food, or that it is illegal to donate tax payer sponsored food, or that it is too much work to organize the logistics around food donation.

As a matter of fact, it is not only legal, but also encouraged to donate the food. The Good Samaritan Act  holds any donor harmless and We Future Cycle will pair the school up with the closest local, health department vetted soup kitchen, that will come and pick up right after lunch. A complete Win Win situation for all parties.

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And think about the social lesson to the children if they are involved in the process.

However, the best way to avoid untouched food waste is to teach the children (and their parents) about choices and how to refuse when they do not intend to consume a food item.

In the lunchrooms we see so many children dumping the lovingly made sandwich from mom right into compost, without ever taking a bite out of it. And off they go to stand in line at the snack desk to buy chips and ice cream.

I am sure there is a better way. Let’s tackle it to make a difference.

 

 

White Plains School District Food Service, an Active Participant to Reduce Waste

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Church St Food Service workers preparing trays to keep  packaging at minimum

The success of source separating lunchrooms and teaching students about sustainable practices depends immensely on partnership with food service. The equation is easy, what goes in, must come back out. If food service sends many single serve packaging into the lunchroom, it makes sorting very difficult, potentially contaminating the food waste with plastic and ending up in the trash (or on the floor).

Have you ever tried peeling a sticky opened ketchup pouch off a tray? Not a pretty picture.

Ed Marra, Director of Food Service for the White Plains City School District, is a fabulous team player who took the We Future Cycle recycling program as chance to educate all his staff in sustainable practices. While only two of White Plains schools are piloting the program right now,  Mr Marra knew that all school employees can benefit from this kind of education.

He invited Anna Giordano to the Superintendents Training Day at White Plains High School to educate the staff not only about how the program works and what the children are learning, but going the extra mile to outline the environmental and social foot print each material has.

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only 1/4 bin of trash per day

Cafeteria Manager Sadie Tatum shared that she had no idea that Aluminum foil comes from strip mining the rain forest and she has immediately stopped using aluminum foil in her cafeteria and her home.  Ms Tatum and her team excitedly set up their kitchen to follow the same sorting guidelines and all are stunned to see that at the end of a day, they had less then a quarter office size bin as trash. All food, packaging and soft plastic was sorted out to be composted and recycled, and the only trash was gloves and dirty soft plastics.

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“It is not hard, no big deal at all to sort”, Ms Tatum said when asked on how the system affected her normal day.

Mr. Marra actively supports the program by eliminating most single serve packaging, replacing them with squeeze bottles and dispensers. He also affected the change that bagel condiments were made “by choice” items and not just placed on the tray of the children, whether they wanted the creme cheese or not.

These kinds of  adjustments are often met with resistance. Arguments against replacing single serve ketchup pouches are that it is too much work to refill the squeeze bottles, or the students would take too much. However in White Plains, thanks to Mr Marra’s decisive leadership and the training,  the transition was flawless and it allowed Church St Elementary School to become a new Zero Waste Facility with less then 1.7% of trash, or only 3 lbs (!!!) of trash coming out of a lunchroom with 800 students.

 

White Plains Church St Elementary School Nearly At Zero Waste

White Plains Church St Elementary School under the leadership of Principal Myra Castillo and Assistant Principal Merle Jackson have reached nearly Zero Waste  with only 3 lbs of trash from nearly 700 students in the lunchroom.  Outstanding!

Ms Castillo knew that this program can only work if all departments work together for a common goal. She allowed time for food service, facilities, teachers and teachers aids to be trained on why the We Future Cycle recycling program is so valuable for the social development of the students.

And both Ms Castillo and Ms Jackson are putting their money where their mouth is and are actively participating in teaching the students on how to sort.

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33 lbs of compostable trays sorted out

The system is easy. First the students empty their left over liquids into the bucket, sorting the container into either milk cartons or commingled, then all remaining plastic is sorted into commingled, all food waste and paper products are dumped into compost and the tray is stacked neatly. Done.

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42.5 lbs of compostable food waste

Church St had a whopping 76 lbs of excess liquid, a large bag of commingled, 2 large bags of milk cartons, 75.5 lbs of compostable material and only 3 lbs of trash, that is 1.7%. Nearly Zero Waste!

6 students helped with the weighing and counting. Thank you

Only the students that bring lunch from home in disposable packaging are contributing to trash. Non recyclable are chip bags, drink pouches, soft plastic wrappers, sandwich baggies, go go squeeze packaging and things along those lines. Next steps will be to actively involve parents to be part of the zero waste solution.

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Smiling head custodian Jody Raynor helping students sort

A huge shout out to Head Custodian Jody Raynor, whose support in this program is invaluable. He is being called  ” Mr Smiles” by the students.  Trust me, I am not making this up.  He does smile all the time, while helping the students to sort. Truly WAY TO GO!

Church St Elementary School is a prime example on how support by all departments can lead to something as fabulous as nearly zero waste.

 

White Plains Church St Students are learning about “away”

When you say ” I am throwing something away” , where is “away”?

That is a question  students at Church St Elementary school learned the answer to. And they didn’t like it, not one bit.

Looking at pictures of land fills and incinerators brought even the littlest students to a open mouthed gasp.  November 6th 2015 was launch date of the We Future Cycle Recycling program at Church St and it started with assemblies to all students in the auditorium. In a lively presentation, students learned to look differently at packaging material. What they first considered trash, they saw later as raw material for new things, the premise of recycling.  What they first saw as a yummy snack, they later saw as food that created trash because of its unrecyclable packaging.  They also learned just how much garbage is generated at a school, something they had never thought of before. And they learned, that most of what they generate can be recycled if it was just sorted out. Now they are chomping at the bit to start sorting.

DSCN19056 Safety Squat students were chosen to assist with the “before recycling” waste audit. They stood open mouthed in front of the 15 bags of bulging trash. They weighed each bag, we calculated totals, looked at median bag weights, offered suggestions why some bags were much heavier then others, while not being necessarily more bulky.  Suggestions included that the bags may have come from younger students as there was more heavy food and more left over liquid in these bags.

Church St generated that day 15 bags of trash, weighing a total of 204 lbs. Anna Giordano, from We Future Cycle, asked the students to imagine what a ton of garbage looked like. Step by step, the students worked to identify that 200  of their own lunchroom bags would equal 2000 lbs. Upon learning that Westchester Ct generates more then 2300 tons of garbage per day, one boy sadly commented “and that is just Westchester”. A very mature deduction from a 5th grader.

From Monday Nov 9th, Church St students will be separating their lunchroom waste into waste liquid, milk cartons, commingled and food waste and the students are looking forward to diverting an estimated 90% away from trash and into recycling.

Church St is all geared up to make a difference. Way to go!

 

 

 

Cash For Columbus School Writing Competition Winners

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Columbus Elementary School was the proud winner for the coveted Nina Chin Writing Contest Grant. Mrs. Nunez, Principal, gave 3rd, 4th and 5th graders the opportunity to participate by writing an essay to the Topic “I can make a difference”. 145 students rose to the challenge, an outstanding level of participation, thanks to two teachers Ms Costa and Ms Alexander-Zahn, who went from class to class to promote the contest.

On June 15th at 10:00, the auditorium was filled with excited students. Who snagged the top prizes per grade?

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The ceremony began with a presentation by 11 students sharing information about Columbus’ recycling program. Students shared that they learned that they can make a big difference by sorting their waste into different categories, they were proud to have weighed the materials and realized that instead of making 400 lbs or garbage, they only made 8 lbs and all the rest is now raw material for new things.

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A second grader said that she is now the recycling specialist in her house and is teaching her mom about it. A kindergarten student  loudly proclaimed that we only have one Earth and she will make sure that all her friends are taking care of it with her.

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A sideways glance to the dignitaries Derrik and Jean Chin, Irene Schindler and Rev. Jennie Talley showed that they were very moved, clutching tissues.

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Sonia Nunez, Principal

The second part of the celebration was Mrs. Nunez calling one by one the runner ups and winners per grade up to the front to receive their certificate and their envelope with the cash prize. While the kids came up, some excerpts of their essay was shared.

Some truly powerful statements came from these young minds.

Mia Torres shared in her essay that she wants to help the environment because when she looks outside, she sees plastic bags in the trees. She doesn’t like that because the trees help us breathe.

Jasmin Alvarez very wisely said “Live like every day is Earthday!”

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Mia Torres, 3rd grade

And Willy Hidalgo says; ” to make Earth green we have to care for it. We also have to clean up liter and garbage, even if it is not yours!”

Willy, you are SO right! Well said.

Michelle Oliveros thought long term, an outstanding achievement for a 5th grader. She said; ” We have to keep the Earth clean for our future families. We also have to let our families know about recycling and reusing. It is all about our Earth.”

New Rochelle Columbus Students are making a huge difference

Introducing Sustainability Education and Source Separation to a school is a massive undertaking because of the sheer number of  stakeholders. Think about it, changing behavior from “throwing it all away” to “responsibly sorting” in a building that has 1,100 people zooming through it at all times is huge!

Well, New Rochelle’s Columbus Elementary School is showing how it is done.

Ms. Nunez, Principal, and Ms. Owens, Assistant Principal, know that it takes everybody to be on the same page to be successful – not just within the building, but also from Food Service, Facilities, Central Administration and of course the parents.  A brilliant move to create consensus and ownership of the program at every level.

We Future Cycle then presented to each stakeholder group, such as the custodial staff, teachers, parents, monitors, and every single student in small groups. Sharing the visual of the amount of garbage that is being generated every day, and then adding it up to just one week was greeted with audible sounds of shock and disbelief.

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23 bags of trash every day is a pretty powerful argument, and that is just from lunch. It does not even include the 20 bags coming out of night clean.

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We Future Cycle involved the students to help with a Waste Audit. The students counted every single packaging material that is brought into the cafeteria and the raw data is now with the 5th grade Kaleidoscope students to work with.  Learning how hard data collection can be was a lesson in itself.

Read here how Columbus students reduced their lunchroom waste by 98%.

Setting up a building to allow for proper flow of materials relies heavily on clear and consistent signage as well as proper placement of the correct bins. Head Custodian George directed his team to set up each bin as per our suggestion with the signage provided by us, and the success was instantaneous. Kindergarten students carefully rinsed out their snack containers to place them into the commingled bin, proudly informing the teacher. “See, I am recycling, Mr Mastro.’ Every day, eager hands are up to get the job to bring the class room bins into the central hall way stations.IMG_0321

Columbus is only a few days into the process, but has already successfully reduced lunchroom waste by 98%, from just under 400 lbs per lunch to only 8 lbs, and the building output has also drastically been reduced by diverting the paper and commingled into recycling.

Columbus students are super excited because a film crew is covering the transformation of the school and the documentary is going to be shown on the big screen.  I can share already with you that Columbus is full of raw talent. So, watch out for the showing of “Columbus Students are Making a Real Difference” coming soon to the picture house near you.

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