Greenpoint Gazette

Let’s Talk Trash

BY Fei Walker

October 13 begins the Eco Schools Consumption and Waste Pathway for all four of Greenpoint’s Eco-Schools (PS 31, PS 34, PS 110 and MS 126). Since September, full-time Sustainability Coaches at each school have been collecting baseline data about how much trash each school throws away from the cafeteria and classrooms.  Our goal is to reduce school waste by 25% annually at each school by properly sorting and recycling our trash.

So, let’s talk trash. The main thing to remember is all trash isn’t the same. In schools, there are food scraps, paper, metal, plastics, glass, cardboard, food scraps, candy wrappers, potato chip bags, chewing gum wrappers, e-waste(electronics), classroom furniture…you get the picture. The truth is most of what schools throw away can be recycled or upcycled.  Paper becomes paper, metal becomes metal, glass becomes glass, food becomes compost (soil), e-waste gets repaired and reused; old furniture can be given away. The remainder gets hauled to a landfill (plastic bags, wrappers on packaged foods, candy wrappers, potato chip bags, plastic sandwich bags) where it becomes methane gas that pollutes our planet.  So what’s in NYC school trash: 40% clean paper and cardboard, 40% food scraps, 10% metal, glass, plastics, and cartons, and 10% is trash.  Which means approximately 90% of school waste can be recycled.

In the past, each school has recycled different waste streams. Some recycle paper, some recycle metal/glass/plastics; some recycle cardboard, but none recycle food scraps. But Greenpoint Eco-Schools will collect food scraps that will be turned into compost for NYC parks and gardens. Plus, each school will recycle everything that can be recycled, thus decreasing the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

So here’s the skinny on how MS 126 is doing with cafeteria waste: the school produces an average of 2014 pounds per day, sent to the landfill.

MS 126 is forming a student-led Eco Action Team (Green Team) composed of students, parents, teachers, custodians, cafeteria staff and community members that will assist in making recycling a success. Student leaders will assist their classmates during lunch to properly recycle in the cafeteria.  The entire school– adults and children– have been trained in recycling best practices with GrowNYC, the sustainability resource for New Yorkers providing free tool and services to anyone can use to improve our city and environment.

Each school’s Green Team, supported by the Greenpoint Eco Schools Sustainability Coach, will take the lead in using the data collected to come up with an action plan for their school, keep the wider school community and the Greenpoint community informed of its progress. So stay tuned. But in the meantime consider this…”Recycling is just one piece of the puzzle.”

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