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.
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!
All of White Plains elementary and middle schools are running the We Future Cycle recycling program in their lunchroom. All schools have reduced their waste by a whopping 95-98%, and are looking at just a few pounds of soft plastic as garbage coming out of their lunchroom, down from the hundreds. All the rest is either excess liquid, commingled recycling or food waste to be composted.
Before implementation these school generated a combined 1317 lbs of waste each day, resulting in daily White Plains garbage trucks to empty bulging 6 yard trash containers.
Since implementation, each custodian is casually slinging a single fluffy bag of garbage composed of plastic baggies, chip baggies or cookie wrappers over his pinky finger to carry outside. Lonely this bag sits in the container until it gets joined by the night clean garbage. So, all schools combined generate a mere 44 lbs of garbage out of breakfast and lunch together. WOW!
Here is that data extrapolated for the full school year of 180 days. A reduction of 118 tons of garbage through simple sorting. That is incredible!
White Plains schools are not stopping there, the race is on for zero waste!
We Future Cycle has also implemented a robust building wide sorting program, placing signage and recycling bins in each classroom, office and at strategic spots in the hallways. Regularly, we weigh and spot check what is being discarded and are delighted to report that some schools have reduced their building waste to a mere 25 lbs! From 700+ students.
White Plains schools are competing with each other towards zero waste! A worthwhile goal.
This is what 25 lbs of garbage looks like from a large middle school!
Compare this to just lunch waste from one school without sorting.
The annual process of locker clean out entailed until today a line of garbage cans in each hallway, and students just taking armful over armful of stuff out of their lockers to dump. A school of 1500 kids would easily generate 7500 lbs of material, all in over 100 plastic bags. A tremendous cost to the school in terms of man power, bags and carting cost.
New Rochelle’s Isaac E. Middle School tackled this challenge with the help of We Future Cycle. The school has adopted the We Future Cycle recycling program last year and has since diverted 97% of its waste into recycling or composting streams. Students are sorting at breakfast, lunch and in their classroom.
So extending that “new normal” behavior into the hallways during locker clean out was no problem at all. All it took was 3 bins, clearly marked, some directions to the students and some supervision, and voila! 98% of the materials from the lockers were sorted into paper recycling or commingled.
Just. Like. That !
100 bags of trash transformed into 9 brimming full paper recycling toters, 2 toters of commingled and maybe a total of 15 lbs of non recyclables.
On my regular visit to schools participating in the We Future Cycle Recycling Program, I often ask the students how they are feeling about sorting in the lunchroom. The answers today made me so proud! Here is what Eastview’s 6th graders had to say.
Diego said that sorting is not hard, it helps the Earth so much and he now does it automatically without thinking and also at home.
David brought the information home and in his house there are 3 bins now and everything gets sorted correctly, and that makes it so much cleaner.
Reid echoed that now his house also recycles, something they did not do before.
Rebecca shared that they were recycling before she learned about it in school, but now they are also composting in their yard and they are much more exact about what items can all be recycled.
Silvia also brought recycling home and it is now the new normal at home as well.
Watching 600+ students sorting carefully their lunchroom waste into excess liquid, commingled recycling and food waste for composting was so inspiring. They KNEW what to do, and they did it casually, completely naturally and without any effort at all. While chatting with their friends soft plastic was separated from the left over sandwich so each could go into the correct bin, left over milk was poured into the bucket, and the carton went into recycling.
This new normal also shows throughout the building as each classroom is set up with a paper and commingled recycling bin .
Today I audited the garbage that came from night clean, so from all the classrooms, bathrooms and offices and it was incredible! A building of 600+ students generated just 16 lbs of garbage in the building, 6 lbs from lunch and breakfast and 3 lbs from the kitchen. So a total of only 25 lbs of garbage per day, down from 296 lbs per day or an overall 92% reduction! That is way wonderful. And just think about these 600+ students bringing this news home and making it the new normal there as well.
New Rochelle School District is now running the We Future Cycle Recycling Program in all of its elementary schools and one of its middle schools, close to 7000 students are sorting their waste every day, instead of just dumping it all into the garbage.
Every single school has reduced its waste by 95 to 98%, from 20 bags down to one. From 350 lbs down to 7.5 lbs. Part of the program is the sorting out of the untouched food. The food the students take but end up not consuming. And there is LOTS of it.
The We Future Cycle Recycling Program is working this problem from both ends. One side is to reduce through education the amount the students take without intention to consume it, and the other side is to sort it into a donation basket rather then dumping it.
Isaac Young MS students just started the program and through sorting, rescued 2 crates of untouched food every day. This food is going to HOPE Kitchens, a non-for-profit soup kitchen that feeds needy New Rochelle community members. A win-win situation.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!