In the spring of 2012, students and teachers at Oakland International High School examined the types of waste generated at school and began working to reduce the school's environmental impact. Students took immediate action to improve recycling and clearly label bins on campus. They also identified the largest point source of waste generation: the cafeteria.
The school developed a plan to install monitored waste diversion stations and won a grant to employ student monitors at lunch. "The grant allows us to employ 2 students at each lunch to work as waste station monitors. We employed 10 students, so each team of two is responsible for one day each week," explains teacher Liza Richheimer.
With support from their school custodian- Anthony Johnson, Waste Management, Oakland Unified School District and the Service-Learning Waste Reduction Project, Richheimer and her students were able to start the school year with new diversion stations in place in the cafeteria.
Richheimer supplied all teachers with a flyer explaining the new system during the first week of school. Teachers taught and re-taught correct usage of the stations each day before lunch. Richheimer and a team of her colleagues each take turns supporting the student monitors ensuring that the system has a strong start.
Key features of the stations include a "Food Share" box for students to place unopened, uneaten food for others to eat; a "Liquids" bucket for leftover milk and juice, and traditional recycling, food scrap, and landfill bins. After scraping their waste into the appropriate bins, students stack their compostable trays to reduce the amount of space that bagged compost occupies.
"Students are starting to pre-sort their waste at their tables at the end of lunch before coming to the waste stations- it is really speeding up the process," noted Richheimer. "We still have a couple of small kinks in the system to work out, but so far this has been a huge success!"