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Westchester County Board of Legislator Endorses School Lunch Recycling Program

1291471_10151983769611205_1823056415_oOn March 31, 2014, I was so proud to present the School Lunch Recycling Program to the Westchester County Board of Legislator, Committee for Energy and Environment.

Legislator Catherine Parker invited Anne Jeffe Holmes, Director of Programming at the Greenburgh Nature Center, Jean Bonhatal from the Cornell Waste Management Institute and myself, Anna Giordano, to share programs in place in Westchester working towards the final frontier of Food Waste Management.

Here is the video coverage of the event.

http://westchestercountyny.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=3057&AgendaID=2840&FileFormat=pdf&Format=Agenda&MediaFileFormat=wmv

The Legislators were very interested and assured us that they will carefully look at how they can create infrastructure in Westchester to facilitate local Food waste management.

Right now, only Suburban Carting offers commercial food waste hauling to a out of county facility.

But Food waste is black gold and we really need to keep it in Westchester to benefit from it.

New Rochelle Elementary School Sorts Out Compost, Recycling, Garbage reduced from 22 bags down to less then 1/4 bag

New Rochelle’s Trinity Elementary school is the first school in the District to sort out all compostable and recyclable items from the lunchroom. The results were simply amazing. Dr Korostoff, New Rochelle’s Superintendent is personally overlooking and supporting its implementation.

New Rochelle’s Food service provider Whitson has been very helpful in eliminating items from the lunchroom that were problematic to sort.

The School lunch Recycling Program is very simple, the children empty their left over drinks into a bucket, then sort the drink container, they empty their left over food into the compost and they stack their trays. Any untouched food items go into the share basket, any extra plastic goes with the plastics. Done!

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The only thing left in the regular trash are very soiled plastic bags, ripped chip bags or yogurt pouches. That is IT!

This is Lunch garbage from a school with 1200 kids. Here the students just mindless dump all their waste into garbage cans and the custodians carry all these bags out during a time period of 2 hrs.

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In Trinity, the children were taught and supervised (by me) to source separate. The result were that we had

4  small bags of heavy food left overs mixed with napkins as compost

1 bin of plastic recycling

2 bags of milk cartons

neat pile of stacked trays.

The food and trays fit into a 95 gallon toter to be picked up and composted.

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It is clear that with this kind of reduction, there is no need for TWICE daily pick up anymore and the District can save tremendous money, that is right now spent on labor, transportation, fuel and tipping fee.

Since I brought this problem to light, and publicly insisted on it being addressed, New Rochelle School District managed to reduced its overall garbage by 23% and that is really only thanks to the cardboard recycling now actually working in 9 out of 10 schools. Plastic recycling still only works in 3 schools, all others have much potential for improvement.

Once all compost is out of the system too, we can shared services with the City and have a potential saving of 500 – 600,000 per year currently spent on waste management.

However, the success of this program depends on the adults in the lunchroom.

The district contracts with Aramark for $700.000 to provide 4 Supervisors. Mr James Purdy, an employee of Aramark,Supervisor of all custodians was present at the roll out of this earth saving, environmentally necessary, socially beneficial and tremendously cost savings program.

Instead of actively instructing his staff, consisting of 2 hourly lunchroom cleaners, he maintained that they cannot be expected to help supervise the stations. He also said, that they were too busy with sweeping the floors and cleaning the tables.

This program reduces the work load of the cleaner staff tremendously, because they do not have to carry out 22 bags of trash anymore during the course of 2 hrs, instead they have to empty the liquid bucket once in the middle of lunch and empty the compost twice or thrice depending on how heavy they want the 1/4 full bag to get.

In my opinion, leaving the certainty of reducing garbage related costs tremendously in the  hands of a Custodial Supervisor that maintains that 2 hourly cleaners in one lunchroom cannot be expected to supervise the station may not be the best way to spend our money.

New Rochelle School District Garbage Reduced 23% Since Recycling Was Introduced

MountainTrash

These are my comments shared with the New Rochelle Board of Education on March 25th, 2014.

Dear Board,

I have been coming to speak here now for about 3 years, the first time in June of 2011. I shared with you then, that I realized how much garbage the kids were generating in the lunchrooms. How mindless they were throwing everything out, how there was no recycling can in sight anywhere, how the students were trained that everything around them was disposable and all they had to do is throw it mindlessly in the garbage.

We had 22 bags of garbage coming out of Ward every single lunch.

I praise Franco Miele for allowing me to develop the school lunch recycling program. It was unheard of before to tackle the task to bring 1000 kids to separate their lunchwaste. It did not exist anywhere in the country as far as I could find. I found ways to recycle most of what was generated in the lunchrooms.

Through my program materials were sorted into different recyclable categories, thus reducing garbage by 90%.

I went to different principals to present the program and Trinity and Jefferson were immediately on board, and started the program up in September of 2011, with ALMS to follow in October of 2011.

However, despite this success, Mr Organisciak did not initiate district wide adoption . How often did I come to you to say that to be even more successful we needed custodial training, we needed an interim storage for trays, we needed to get rid of these spork packages?

I was invited to present the program to Eastchester and it was immediately adopted by the district and put in place in all schools within weeks of presenting it. Tuckahoe, followed. Each Superintendent immediately saw the educational, environmental, social and financial benefit from teaching kids to source separate and thus reducing garbage and saving money. In 2012 some Yonkers, Mt Vernon and all of Ossining elementary schools came on board.

In June of 2012 Mr Quinn finally announced that New Rochelle schools are to recycle all cardboard and all kitchen commingled. I watched very carefully and reported often to you on bumps in the roads. Basically what worked was that most cardboard and some kitchen commingled was getting actually recycled in most schools.

We are now in 2014, and finally, thanks to the leadership of Dr Korostoff, New Rochelle schools will start to source separate. The kids will sort out all compostable items, and all recyclable items and by working with Food service, we expect to have 3 lunchrooms practically waste free.

And Dr Korostoff also saw that serving our children on anticipated carcinogenic trays had to stop, and he got rid of these wasteful spork packages. I applaud Dr Korostoff for his decisive leadership.

I also want to share this great news with you. Since 2011, when I started to put the lack of recycling in the public eye, our total garbage tonnage, tipped at the transfer station as been reduced from for 915 tons in 2011, to 833 tons in 2012 down to 712 tons in 2013.

That is a 23% reduction in garbage generation.

I am sure, that by next year, with then all New Rochelle’s schools doing the school lunch recycling program, I can report even more impressive reductions. I am looking forward to it. This is truly great news.

Single Use Plastic Bags Cost New Rochelle’s Taxpayers Dearly

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Single Use Plastic bags cost the tax payers enormous money because they clog up sewers and litter the environment. New York City has been the front runner for many ground breaking  changes in how residents handle disposables.
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Single Use Plastic bags are a major problem for our environment. These bags never decompose, all they do is “photodegrate”, which means they eventually fall apart into tiny little pieces of plastic which are impossible to eliminate. These tiny pieces of plastic create a plastic soup, which has made it into our food chain.
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New York City is proposing legislation to put a 10 cents charge on each Single Use Plastic bag to foster change in consumer behavior. Because to be frank, people tend to change only if it hits their pocket book.
Intro 209-2104 was introduced by the NY City Council today:

http://nypost.com/2014/03/24/proposal-would-levy-10-cent-fee-on-paper-plastic-shopping-bags/

This is the petition sent to the Mayor of NYC to support this legislation.
Dear Mayor De Blasio:
I’m writing today to urge you to support Intro 209-2014, which will reduce the use of plastic bags in New York City.
Plastic bags take years to decompose even when disposed of properly. They also harm our creeks, bays and rivers and the animals that live in them, and cause massive amounts of litter on our streets.
Plastic bags are also expensive to taxpayers. It costs New York City $10 million to transport 100,000 bags to landfills each year. This bill would reduce that cost while also protecting our environment.
Cities and communities across the country have implemented similar initiatives with great success. New York should be at the forefront of this movement, and as a member of the New York League of Conservation Voters, I believe that our city should implement a plastic bag fee to deter the use of single-use bags.
Please support a greener, cleaner New York City. Please support Intro 209-2014.
Trust me, this is not only a NYC problem, this is a New Rochelle problem just as much. Please support the NYC bill by joining the petition, once NYC passes legislation like that, it is much easier to bring similar legislation to New Rochelle and Westchester.
Bringing your re-usable bags to the store is not difficult at all, Try it, you might like it.
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