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[GreenYes] Re: school food scrap collection program

This is in response to Karin Grobe's question, posted on May 9, about school
food scrap collection programs. Eco-Cycle's Green Star Schools program, now
in its third year, currently includes 14 schools in Boulder County, Colorado
and focuses on Zero Waste in those schools. We are collecting organics not
just in the cafeteria, but in all parts of the school (bathrooms,
classrooms, offices and lounges). For a more in-depth description of our
program, please visit Eco-Cycle's website:

To address Karin's specific questions, training elementary students can be
difficult. What makes our program unique is the fact that we include so much
education. We have school kick-off assemblies with demonstrations of what
the cafeteria sorting will be like, followed by individual classroom
presentations focusing on the proper sorting techniques in the cafeteria and
classroom. We also do composting presentations that educate students on the
science of composting and soil ecology. When students have an understanding
of composting, and that contaminants like metals and plastics can kill the
worms, insects and other organisms in the soil, it helps them understand the
importance of keeping those contaminants out.

We also have a staff person in the school cafeteria for the first three
weeks of their participation in the program. That staff person spends the
whole lunch period with the students, making announcements, quizzing kids at
the table, and supervising the sort as they make their way through the waste
station (which includes composting, recycling, trays of soapy water for
reusable service ware and trash). We make sure that the students are doing
the work and that we aren't sorting their trays for them. In several
schools, we have made simple posters with actual materials (like bottles,
wrappers, etc.) glued to the poster board, with one for trash, one for
recyclables, and one for compostables. The posters give the students
something to look at as they sort their materials at the cafeteria waste

After three weeks of intensive staffing in the lunchroom, we scale back so
the schools become more independent and we drop in a few times a week for
the next three weeks to measure progress and to address problems. We also
work with schools to recruit parent volunteers and train those volunteers to
help with lunches as we reduce our presence in the school cafeteria.

For most schools, decisions based on purchasing have mostly to do with cost.
We have been able to work very closely with the school district
administration to implement the use of reusable service ware. While we have
not been able to get rid of disposable packaging altogether, we have been
able to substantially reduce the amount of polystyrene and plastic used in
the cafeterias. We also make sure that the paper products that are used in
the cafeterias are not plastic-coated, as we have identified this as a
contaminant in our compost collection.

Cyndra Dietz

Eco-Cycle School Recycling and Environmental Education Coordinator

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