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[greenyes] School Recycling
Dear Lindsay,

Project Citizen sounds like an excellent project for eighth graders to get
involved in! Students have to work together to define a problem that exists
in your community or school, you do research, you analyze your results, and
you make a proposal in the form of a policy decision. Don't you wish all of
your classwork was that relevant to real life?

I no longer teach in schools (other than as an invited guest speaker!), but
I am aware of a school which developed an excellent integrated recycling
program that saved the school several thousand dollars a year. I know about
it because I published the book which the teacher wrote describing how she
and her students
came up with the idea and carried out their program. They had a classroom
worm bin. The students were amazed at how well the worms could turn the
lunch scraps into nutrient-rich humus for their school garden. They asked,
"Why can't we compost all of the cafeteria wastes with worms?"

As they did their research they had to work with all of the school
personnel. They worked with the food services staff, they got other
students involved. They got the cooperation of other teachers. They wrote
letters to the administration. The found out what the custodial staff would
be willing to do and not be willing to do. They developed a letter getting
permission from parents and describing the program. They designed a program
which involved separation of the different kinds of wastes (resources) in
the cafeteria, with appropriately-sized and labeled containers. Veggie
wastes became worm food. Animal wastes (meat and dairy products) became pig
food for a farmer who picked it up on a regular basis. Bottles and bags
were kept separate. Milk cartons were rinsed and recycled. The yucky trash
which had to be disposed of included non-recyclables such as plastic food
bags, napkins, and tissues which could be a health hazard.

They also had to design their worm composting system. They started small
with one large 4 x 8 foot bin set up with shredded paper, then expanded to
5 bins where food was buried in trenches using a very precise schedule
which they developed.

Because they needed to shred so much paper they got the student council to
donate $200 for 2 shredders. They got the younger kids in the school to go
from room to room with a big fat-wheeled wheelbarrow to collect the
mountains of paper from the elementary classrooms. They learned that the
trash dumpsters filled up the fastest with paper from these classrooms. It
was so contaminated with colored construction paper and crayons and paste
and glue that it couldn't be recycled. But the worms didn't care! And it
made great worm bedding after it was shredded. They were concerned about
whether toxic chemicals in the colored paper might produce toxic elements
in the worm compost which they wanted to grow vegetables in, so they had it
tested. The worm compost showed either non-detectable levels or
insignificant levels of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and lead.

They began shredding so much paper for worm bedding the $100 paper
shredders didn't last very long. By then, the administration could see that
they were saving the school lots of money by having to pay for only one
trash dumpster a month to be hauled away to the landfill, instead of one a
week!  So the adminstration approved the purchase of a $1000 dollar
shredder which could do the job required. And the kids were taught safety
procedures for operating it. The teacher, Binet Payne, and her students
calculated that this integrated recycling program using worms to process
the cafeteria food waste and recycle everything else possible saved the
school $6000 initially.

It shows how effective a program can be when everyone gets involved. . .
the students are involved in meaningful real-life projects interacting with
their school staff and teachers in a responsible manner. There is more work
at the beginning of the year because new signs have to be made up, monitors
have to be there to make sure the proper material has to go into the proper
container, schedules for maintaining the worm bins need to be set up. Kids,
teachers and new staff have to be trained, re-trained, or reminded. But
then the program goes on with no more effort than when everything was being
wasted, and people weren't paying attention.

You can read more about the Laytonville, CA Middle School program in Binet
Payne's book, "The Worm Cafe: Mid-scale vermicomposting of lunchroom
wastes." This book is available on my website at
While you are there you can also sign up for my WormEzine which I send out
free every month to describe what's happening in the world of worms.

I hope this gives you some ideas that can help you with your project.
Thanks for giving me the excuse to tell you about Binet and her students at
Laytonville Middle School. Good luck in your project. I hope it becomes as
exciting for you as theirs was for them! You CAN make a difference!


Mary Appelhof

From: SkateLinsy@no.address [mailto:SkateLinsy@no.address]
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2003 7:09 PM
To: info@no.address


My name is Lindsay Brown and I am an eight grader at Central Middle
School in Findlay, Ohio.  Our class is currently participating in a
program called "Project Citizen".  Project Citizen is sponsored by Ohio
Center for Law Related Education.  Students research a problem in their
community and attempt to improve it through a policy decision.  We have
chosen recycling in schools as our topic.  I was wondering if you could
help us. How does recycling in your schools work?  How much do you save
from recycling?

Any information you could give us would be greatly appriciated!


Lindsay Brown

Mary Appelhof
Author of Worms Eat My Garbage
Flowerfield Enterprises
10332 Shaver Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49024

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