CLARKSBURG, Md. — Teaching elementary school children about the process of composting seems like a daunting task on its own. This was one of a handful of challenges facing a team of 7th grade students from Montgomery County, Maryland's Roberto Clemente Middle School.
That presentation to kids at Clarksburg Elementary School in December 2018 was the last hurdle for Team Green Tea to set its composting project into motion.
"The elementary schoolers were really excited to be part of this new program in their county and they really wanted to help us so we also appointed little patrols in the school and they were really excited to do that," said 7th grader Advika Agarwal.
After having recently attended the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, 7th grader Shrusti Amula noted how much food was going to waste and that the food was being disposed of into garbage bags that were then hauled off to local landfills.
"I figured this was a huge problem that we don't always think about but it needs to be addressed," said Amula.
As part of a U.S. Army sponsored project called "eCYBERMISSION", Amula teamed up with two other 7th graders, Advika Agarwal and Angelina Xu, formed Team Green TEA with the goal of setting up a solid food waste management program.
The trio of middle schoolers engaged with Montgomery County School leaders to explain their plan which soon after was implemented as a pilot project at Clarksburg Elementary School.
"We had to convince people with the power to implement this program that's important," said Agarwal. "We have to cater many different audiences to first get our project implemented and then to get the project to work."
Between December 2018 and June 2019, 6,000 pounds of food waste from Clarksburg Elementary School was recycled into compost.
"Not only do we want to implement our project in our community but we also hope to inspire kids all over the world," said Angelina Xu.
One problem faced by the team was how they would transport the food waste off the Clarksburg Elementary School campus.
"Because we don't have an organics composting facility in Montgomery County, we couldn't find a lot of haulers to come and haul in our community because they weren't willing to drive to our neighboring counties which have these composting facilities," said Amula. "We think our county is definitely behind the times because all of our neighboring counties have these kinds of composting facilities and we don't."
"And considering how innovative Montgomery County is, its really important that we get our own food waste composting facility in order to expand our program," said Xu.
"eCYBERMISSION" is a web-based STEM program that encourages students to develop solutions to real-world problems in their local communities. Team Green Tea has already won 1st place awards at both the state and regional levels. This upcoming week, Team Green Tea and students from across the country will come to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national showcase on June 20.
The event will be live streamed and there is an audience component where viewers can vote for their favorite team. Voting will open at 1:30 p.m. June 20 HERE. The overall competition winners will each receive $5,000 in U.S. savings bonds.