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Burton Elementary School
Huntington Woods, Michigan
Students at Burton Elementary generate a relatively large amount of lunch time waste in the form of food, recyclables and trash. Though the topic is discussed in our science curriculum, the principles learned regarding waste reduction and recycling are not currently being implemented in the lunchroom at Burton; nor are there currently opportunities or materials to do so. Burton seeks to significantly reduce its lunch time waste including food waste, plastic silverware and Styrofoam trays used by the hot lunch program and the consumer packaging brought to school in bag lunches such as juice boxes and baggies. The City of Huntington Woods is an environmentally active community. Paper and plastics are currently recycled in Burton classrooms. A large number of homes in the city participate in municipal recycling weekly. Our students have grown up with recycling as a priority in their classrooms and homes. Currently, there is a large disconnect between what students recycle in classrooms and at home and what they recycle during lunch at school. The waste reduction program at Burton will help keep a significant amount of organic matter and recyclable materials out of landfills. It will support the science curriculum that is taught and will help students develop sense of environmental stewardship for their school and community. Students will be actively involved in the education portion of the program as well as the actual implementation, thereby giving them ownership of the solution to our waste generation problem. We are confident that students will also take their waste reduction knowledge and stewardship home with them to support waste reduction throughout our community. We are hopeful that Burton can become a model for other schools wishing to reduce their lunch time waste as well.
As a means of achieving our goal of reducing our lunchtime consumer waste, we will implement a lunchroom recycling and composting program. By providing students with recycling and composting opportunities and educating them as to why waste reduction, recycling and composting are important to our planet and to our community, we will achieve that goal. Reduce/Reuse: Students will participate in comprehensive education program about the benefits of reducing their consumer waste in the lunchroom. During the program, students will be asked to help generate a list of common lunchtime items which typically end up as waste and brainstorm ways to reduce or eliminate them. Recycle: The next phase of the program will help students identify the lunchtime items that can be recycled and students will have the opportunity to practice sorting their trash. Students will also learn what happens to the items once they have been recycled and about the environmental and financial benefits to recycling those items. Compost: The final phase of the program will teach students which food scraps can be turned into compost and how that is done. Students will learn about the composting process through traditional food composters and classroom worm farms. During the education portion of the program, students will help generate the signage and reminder messages that will be used in the lunchroom. In the implementation phase, older students will assist in monitoring the waste, recycling and composting and will assist the custodial staff with management. All students will play a role in monitoring and cultivating the compost on a rotating basis. Our school has an active student environmental club as well as a parent gardening club that oversee our garden in which the compost from our program will be used. The community will be invited to share in the harvest from our garden. In the event that we generate more compost than we are able to use, the community will be invited to share our compost, as well. It is our hope, that students will take the message of reducing, recycling and composting back to their families, as well.