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Model School Waste Diversion Program in 4S Ranch

4S RANCH, CALIFORNIA – Solana Center for Environmental Innovation partnered with Monterey Ridge Elementary School to expand their gardening program by introducing vermicomposting (composting with worms) and lunch time waste sorting.  The program, which we implemented August 2015 –December 2015, made a significant impact on the school’s sustainability efforts and sets up Monterey Ridge Elementary School as leaders in waste diversion and a model for other schools. Solana Center installed a vermicomposting bin that provided students with hands-on learning and an opportunity for fruit and vegetable waste from school lunches to be composted.  The program encouraged home composting and illustrated the viability of business and residential food scrap and organic waste collection and community composting. In addition to vermicomposting, we worked with school staff to develop lunch waste sorting stations appropriate to the current lunch waste streams (landfill, food waste, recycling and lunch trays).  A custom education presentation was created to support the program.  It covered the 4 R’s (reuse, reduce, recycle and rot), vermicomposting and an introduction to the new sorting station.

“Students gained an understanding of worm composting and its value in growing food. Most importantly, students learned that food waste does not need to be placed in the trash,“ said Diane Hazard, Solana Center’s Education Program Manager.

Education involved the coordination of five, grade-specific assemblies and two days of lunch monitoring. Waste audits were performed before and after education to allow a metric for determining lunch waste sorting success. During the waste audit pre-education, lunch waste was weighed and sorted to reveal the landfill diversion potential through recycling and composting.  During the waste audit post-education, lunch waste was weighed and sorted to reveal the contaminants in each bin.  These contaminants illustrated additional waste diversion potential. Utilizing the improved infrastructure and supported by one assembly per grade and two days of lunch time mentoring, students understood the concepts and retained the information. Following the education, students were able to successfully sort 38% (by weight) of their lunch waste and diverted approximately 50% (by volume) of lunch waste 6 weeks post-instruction.  Contamination of the non-trash bins was minimal.  Previously, no school lunch waste was being sorted and all waste was being sent to the landfill. Interested in having Solana Center develop a waste diversion education program for your school?  If so, please contact our Education Program Manager, Diane Hazard at diane@solanacenter.org or (760) 436-7986 x217.    

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