Composting and Recycling in the School Cafeterias
In 2018 the North Andover Public School district was awarded a highly competitive grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) to reduce waste. This funding enabled our students at North Andover Middle School (NAMS), Thomson, Atkinson, and Kittredge to begin a lunchroom sorting process in 2019-2020 to decrease their waste that will act as a guide for their future and the future of the Planet.
Though the program was put on hold at these schools due to the pandemic last year, we have been able to successfully begin the program at the North Andover High School in January 2022. In just 6-weeks there has been over 2,000 pounds of food scraps and other organic matter (lunch trays, napkins, brown lunch bags) diverted from going to the trash, and instead are being picked up by our compost hauler Offbeet Compost, and turned into nutrient-rich soil, that can be used again to plant crops.
This is a significant amount of waste that would otherwise go into a landfill or over to the incinerator on Holt Road, but instead is going to a farm in Lowell and being gradually turned into compost. One elementary school reported going from around 10 bags of trash per day, down to just 2. And at the High School, we began with 25 bags of trash coming out of the lunchroom each day, and we have cut that down to 15.
We are hoping to continue rolling out the remaining 7 schools in the district over the next year, having all students participating by the end of the 2023 school year.
This process includes:
- pouring off liquids to reduce weight in the trash
- recycling container (if applicable)
- disposing of uneaten food waste and other compostable items in a designated bin which will be taken offsite to a nearby farm where it will decompose and become nutrient-rich compost
- put any remaining unopened food in a container for Food Rescue to bring to a local shelter
- throw what remains into the trash.
These programs wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of our custodial and lunch room staff... thank you!
Along with the help from the staff, students are hands on learning about how this project impacts our school, community and world. Students are developing green teams which will include students who have a special interest in these topics to develop their leadership skills. This process is raising students’ environmental awareness, reducing the waste they produce, and teaching our kids the importance of doing their part to help our planet and our local environment.
Like all grant-funded projects, we could use community support! If you are interested in being a part of this, donating supplies or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Joanna O’Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org. THANK YOU!