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8th Graders Organize Lunch Time Waste Reduction


Allison and Samiha organized their school's lunchtime waste reduction effortAllison and Samiha organized their school's lunchtime waste reduction effortAfter a lunch time waste audit showed that over 70% of the items in the trash could be composted, Horner Jr. High's Go Green Commissioners made a plan and took action.

8th graders Allison and Samiha hold the newly created leadership class position dedicated to improving the environmental habits of the campus. "We know we have a big responsibility to set up systems that work. We want to make a difference and we want it to last," explains Allison.

"Our primary goals this year are to reduce lunch-time litter and decrease the amount of trash we throw away," adds Samiha.

Tray stacking cut trash volume by 30%Tray stacking cut trash volume by 30%

During the waste audit, they noticed that the compostable cardboard trays were taking up most of the volume in the trash, so they organized a tray stacking campaign- asking students to dump material from their trays into the trash before stacking the trays for composting.

The effort produced immediate results. Lead custodian Jill Popjoy reports that tray stacking alone resulted in a 30% reduction in trash volume. "We used to fill up 11-12 large bags of trash at every lunch- now we're down to 7-8. The students are doing a great job."

A poster campaign helped get the word outA poster campaign helped get the word out

To help get the word out about the tray stacking campaign, Allison and Samiha created daily bulletin announcements, sent out emails to all students using School Loop, made posters for the courtyard, and hosted a week of monitored tray stacking stations at lunch.

"Students are already catching on to the tray stacking," explains Allison. "It's been easy to teach them to dump their stuff in the trash before stacking the trays. They do a pretty good job stacking trays even when the stations aren't monitored."

Weekly station monitoring keeps the system running cleanWeekly station monitoring keeps the system running clean

"We aren't able to monitor food scraps everyday," they explained, "but once-a-week, one of us walks around with a green bin and asks students to put their food scraps in. The other one of us monitors tray stacking."

The two students are perfectly suited for the job. They cheerfully dig misplaced items out of the trash using picker/grabbers and are not afraid to call-out students who get caught throwing trays in the trash, plastic wrap in the recycling, or food scraps in the garbage.

"HEY! GET BACK HERE!" Allison shouted to a 7th grader on a recent Thursday. She then patiently explained why food scraps go in the compost and reminded him to stack his tray.

Campus supervisor Al Moore has seen improvements in campus cleanlinessCampus supervisor Al Moore has seen improvements in campus cleanliness

They think that there is too much plastic in the cafeteria- this makes monitoring difficult and daily collection of food scraps unfeasible. "We want the district to get rid of the plastic wrapped spork packets- and we've started talking to students at other schools to see if we can make that happen," says Samiha.

Campus supervisor Al Moore has noticed a big improvement in the lunchtime courtyard. "This has been a big help," he says. "These two young ladies are really helping the 7th graders get with the program."

Students deliver stacked trays to composting at the end of lunchStudents deliver stacked trays to composting at the end of lunchAllison and Samiha hope to add a "Food Share" box to the courtyard at lunch. "Almost 20% of our food waste was unopened food. We made bulletin announcements encouraging them to share uneaten food, and some have started doing that, but a food share box will really help," explains Samiha.