Reducing Waste At McLean School Sets Example
MCLEAN, Va. (WUSA) - Trash has a new meaning at Churchill Road Elementary School. Some of it means money. Some of it means food for the hungry. And some of it means a bumper crop of vegetables this spring.
The school produces 300 pounds of trash everyday, but only throws out 30 pounds. The rest of the 270 pounds of waste is recycled, turned into compost, or upcycled, meaning it's used again as it is.
"Nothing is disposable. Everything has a use everything has a value and you just don't throw it away because you think its trash," says Debra Maes, the mother who started the program last school year.
After their done eating, the students walk through the recycle line, separating their various empty bags, bottles and containers into bins. All food and peelings leftover are dumped in a compost tumbler outside.
Those foil chip and cookie bags are sent to Terracycle which sends the school $.02 for every bag. That money has been able to buy a compost tumbler and seeds for the garden.
Every day, they compost 80 pounds of waste, recycle 70 pounds, upcycle 40 pounds, and send 80 pounds of leftover and unopened milks and yogurts to the local food pantry.
That leaves just 30 pounds of trash they throw away. A 90% reduction.
But it doesn't stop there. They're growing worms at a "vermi-culture" incubator to help turn the uneaten vegetables and fruit into compost which will be used in their gardens.
And... water from their rain barrel waters the plants they've already starting seeding in their greenhouse.
"Instead of sending all of our trash to a landfill, we're recycling or reusing it or using helping the earth in other ways," said sixth grader Linsey Wenk.
"This is easy to do. We have kindergarteners who do this and know what recycling and upcyling is," said sixth grader Audrey Nicholson.
Debra Maes calls the whole program "Environmental Studies" because of its comprehensive and hands-on. She hopes other schools see how easy it is , and plan to start their own. Several schools have already visited Churchill, which is now a Pilot School in Environmental Studies for Fairfax County Public School.