Last week, students from Mr. Shaffer's Leadership class at Horner Jr. High sorted through a sample of courtyard trash cans to study the types of trash thrown away outside during lunch.
The waste audit, facilitated by EarthTeam, showed an overwhelming abundance of food waste in the trash, equalling 71% of the total waste stream. Disturbing and surprise findings included milk everywhere, plastic wrapping (from utensil bundles), pizza boxes with mixed wrapping materials, a reusable bottle, and a lot of unopened and uneaten food (like sandwiches).
During an action‐planning session on 9/13/12, students brainstormed food waste reduction strategies, such as having the cafeteria offer indiviudal utensils (instead of requiring students to take utensils they don't need), and installing compost bins with bin moniters and signs with pictures.
The use of bulletin announcements can be an effective way to remind students of recycling rules on campus. The announcements help make recycling part of the ongoing conversation and culture on campus.
Student recycling team leaders and teachers have noticed a marked improvement in the school's recycling program in the weeks since student leaders began using periodic bulletin announcements to highlight facts about the school's recycling system.
"My students collect the bottles and cans and pick-up paper from the classrooms," says teacher Neha Shah, "Over the last couple of weeks, students have done a much better job using the recycling system. We're seeing less trash in the recycling and fewer recyclables in the trash. Students are also doing a better job with lunch time composting. The bulletin announcements are making a big difference."
Some sample announcements written by students from Horner Jr. High:
Students, how long do you think it takes for an aluminum can to return to the store as a new can once its been recycled?
It only takes 60 days for a can to be recycled and turned into a new can. Keep up the good work with the recycling!
Students, did you know in 2009 American's threw away 9 million tons of glass? That's enough glass to fill tractor trailers stretching from New York to Los Angeles and back to New York! Make sure you remember to recycle glass, aluminum, and plastics so we create less garbage.
Green Trivia: If you use a Styrofoam cup, where should it go when you're done? In the garbage or recycling bin?
The answer is the garbage bin.
Green Trivia: Does food go into the recycling bin?
The answer is no. Food should be thrown into the garbage or compost bin.
Green Trivia: What do you do with your plastic fork or spoon when you're done using it?
The answer is throw it in the garbage bin.
Green Trivia: Who should clean up your garbage when you're done with lunch?
The answer is C. Yourself. We all need to clean up our own mess, so please be sure to pick up your trash.
On Monday, November 7, Horner Jr. High in Fremont launched a new lunch time recycling program to divert all bottles and cans away from the landfill.
The simple system places trash cans and recycling bins in a ring at the center of the courtyard where most students eat lunch. "In the past, we didn't have recycling bins out at lunch," explains special education teacher Neha Shah, "We were concerned that we'd see lots of contamination in the recycling bins when we set them out. Students at [neighboring] Irvington High School suggested that we set them in a ring in the center of the courtyard to make it easier to monitor the stations."
The new system addresses a number of challenges while aspiring to improve campus climate and culture. Students in the special education program manage the campus's recycling efforts and collect bottles and cans to fund field trips and enrichment activities.
"Last year, we dug through the garbage cans with grabbers after lunch to get the bottles and cans- this is definitely a huge improvement as kids are placing bottles and cans in designated containers," explained Shah. "We also wanted to build stronger relationships between leadership students and special education students. The students are already very kind to each other, but this allows them to work together for the common good of the school."
Leadership students set up the system and monitor the 1st half of the lunch period while special education students monitor the second half of lunch and sort materials at the end of lunch. Shah chose to use shorter recycling bins instead of tall toters to make it easier to remove contaminants like milk cartons and juice pouches. By the end of lunch over 100 bottles and cans were captured in the system.
The sorting station places ALL courtyard trash cans and recycling bins at the center of the courtyard. Although there are concerns that students will leave trash at the edges of the courtyard, most were observed to make the short trip to the station, pre-sorting their trash as they walked from their tables.
By using existing trash cans and bins, the system is easy to set up and move. On sunny days, most students eat in the courtyard, but on rainy days, they move into the large gym. "It'll be easy enough to set up the ring of bins inside when the rain starts," says Shah.
Shah is already looking toward improvements to the system including slop buckets for leftover water, milk and juice, aprons and gloves for station monitors, and perhaps the addition of food scrap diversion in the future.