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.
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.
“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.