CHCCS elementary, middle school students compost their lunch

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The Daily Tar Heel

Project Date:

SEP 15, 2014

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CHCCS elementary, middle school students compost their lunch

It will now take a little longer for children enrolled in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to clean up at the end of lunch — but the activity will prove to be another lesson in their day.

A new composting initiative requires middle and elementary school students to separate their leftover food from their recyclable materials.

Instead of throwing all their trash into one bin, the students will place their leftover food, recyclable items and trash in separate bins.

Teachers across the district are making sure students understand the purpose of the new composting initiative.

Kari Hamel, a CHCCS parent, said in an email that her children, Seiji, 11, and Fiore Ren, 8, are eager to participate in the program.

“Putting leftovers in the compost bins and turning it into fertilizer is easy,” said Seiji, a student at Smith Middle School.

Children have to learn how to sort their trash, many teachers have explained the differences to their students and some schools have hung signs in their cafeterias.

Hamel credits the science teachers throughout the district for securing the student’s eagerness to participate.

“For example, Ms. Massengale, (a Glenwood Elementary School) science teacher, provides wonderful outdoor learning environments for her students,” Hamel said.

“Not surprisingly, the students understand the real world benefits of composting and recycling.”

The composting initiative is an expansion of the pilot program launched at four schools during the 2013-14 academic year, said Dan Schnitzer, the sustainability coordinator for CHCCS.

Estes Hills, Morris Grove and Northside elementary schools and Phillips Middle School started sorting their trash during the 2013-14 school year.

Turquoise Parker, a teaching assistant at Estes Hills Elementary, said the program worked well last year but is better this year.

“They (the children) actually really liked it,” she said. “One thing they really liked this year was the bigger signs that say what goes where and have pictures on them.”

Parker said the process is a little less efficient than throwing all trash in one bin, but it serves a larger purpose.

“They’re just so used to being able to throw it away at home, anywhere they want, and it really does take time — it slows the line down,” she said. “But anything to help the environment.”

An estimated 143 tons of compostable waste will be kept out of the landfill now that all 15 elementary and middle schools are a part of the initiative, according to a press release.

Since the 2013 closure of the Orange County landfill, reducing landfill dumpster costs has been a primary concern for the district.

“By diverting waste from the landfill, we will also be eliminating a significant amount of methane that our food waste would produce while in the landfill,” Schnitzer said. “The program also provides a community benefit of healthy soil to local farms and gardens.”

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