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.