Central Valley Academy cafeteria staff participated in the Zero Waste Challenge sponsored by Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority (OHSWA) on Apr. 9. The purpose of the event is to teach students how they can reduce waste going to the landfill by making less trash during their lunch. By teaching students how to reduce waste at lunch will help them get in the habit of reducing waste at home too.
Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority’s School Recycling Coordinator Jamie Tuttle helped organize the event, providing literature and ideas to get students excited. During each lunch period, she explained how each person can play a part taking care of the environment. As students finished eating, she and Cafeteria Manager Barb Cristman helped students sort heir lunch waste into three trash cans—recyclables, compostables and waste. At the end of the day, she weighed the trash—waste that must be disposed of in a landfill—the total was just 13 pounds, 91 percent less than normal.
“I am often asked, ‘Does it really matter?’ This shows that a couple of small changes can make a big difference,” she said.
On an average day, students who eat in the CVA cafeteria generate about 120 pounds of waste; that’s almost 10 tons of waste sent to the landfill each school year. If students recycled, composted and packed Zero Waste Lunches every day, CVA would only send just over 1 ton to the landfill over the course of an entire school year
Jamie Tuttle of the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority explained how a little effort sorting trash makes a big difference.
What makes up our “garbage?”
Trash is the smallest part of lunch waste Ms. Tuttle explained. The bulk of that is made up of chip and snack packaging, juice pouches and plastic sandwich bags. They could be eliminated by using reusable containers and recyclable aluminum foil.
Recyclables, which include milk cartons and drink containers, are the next smallest part.
Food waste is the biggest part. When properly separated from other waste, this can be composted at the Waste Authority. With proper moisture and oxygen, natural bacteria break down food waste in rich organic matter that can be used to enrich lawns and gardens.
Make every day Zero Waste Day
Whether at school or at home, parents and students can take the same steps to reduce waste and safe valuable resources.
Remember these simple suggestions can make a big difference when everyone does their part:
- Pack food items in reusable containers (like Tupperware) or in recyclable aluminum foil instead of plastic bags.
- Avoid individually wrapped or prepackaged single-serve items such as chips, string cheese, cookies and drinks.
- Pack reusable utensils instead of disposable forks and spoons.
- Pack reusable cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
- Prepare extra food at dinnertime and pack leftovers for lunch.
- Only pack as much food as a student will eat.
- Label all containers with the student’s name, improving the likelihood the containers come home.
- Cut large items so students can save extra food for after-school snacks.