Vermont schools lead on recycling and composting

REGION – Vermont’s K-12 schools are at the forefront of implementing the Universal Recycling law and using food education and local resources to cut down on food waste. They are successfully reducing waste, managing recyclable materials and creating food scrap diversion programs in exemplary form.

Vermont schools lead in recycling. Stockphoto.

“In their classrooms and cafeterias, Vermont’s youth are learning important hands-on lessons about how simple and routine it can be to reduce waste, rescue food, recycle materials, and compost. It becomes natural,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Emily Boedecker.

Vermont schools make different choices about how they should best manage their waste; what works for one school might not work for another. Some schools compost on-site; some schools work with a local farm to manage food scraps; and some schools have hauler pickup of food scraps along with their recyclables and other waste. The wide variety of implemented solutions demonstrates the options and flexibility available to organizations and residents seeking to sustainably manage recyclables and organic waste.

Schools across the state are also working to address national food waste trends by using tools to decrease wasted food in their cafeterias and increase food donation rates. ‘Food Share tables,’ where students can place unwanted food to be shared with their classmates rather than throwing the food in the trash, are an increasingly popular tool.

Though most schools are not required to separate food scraps until 2020, schools have been ahead of the curve because of the dedicated students, teachers, parents, and school employees who have been working for years to decrease food waste and manage food scraps. Schools have also received critical support from their solid waste districts or alliances and a rich network of Farm-to-School programming.

With Earth Day nearing, here are two examples of the successful leadership and innovation happening in Vermont schools with the goal of inspiring others:

  Flood Brook School in Londonderry: Flood Brook School established a food scrap diversion system in 2015 by arranging weekly food scrap pickup from TAM Organics Inc., in conjunction with the hauler’s pick-up of food scraps from the nearby Londonderry Transfer Station.

Putney Central School: With the support of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets’ Milk Cooler Program, some schools have installed bulk milk dispensers, eliminating single-serving milk cartons from their waste streams and reducing wasted milk. At Putney Central School, 51,000 milk cartons were landfilled annually prior to switching to a bulk milk dispenser system.

These highlights represent a small sample of the achievements of many more schools across Vermont.

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