RUTLAND–Students in kindergarten through second grade at the Northeast and Northwest elementary schools are not only recycling, but also sorting any uneaten food from breakfast and lunch for composting. Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law (Act 148) will phase in over the next five years, and schools will need to have composting programs in place.
The University of Vermont was one of four grant recipients awarded funds from the state of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, DEC Solid Waste Program last year to support the development of school-wide recycling and composting programs. Rutland City Schools were happy to participate in the project, having already adopted district-wide Zero-Sort recycling. The existing sort stations in each cafeteria were modified to reflect Vermont’s Universal Recycling colors and symbols.
“Figuring out what item goes into which color barrel isn’t always easy,” said Susanne Engels, the principal at Northeast. She coined the slogan “Pour, Pick and Pound” to help students navigate the new sort stations where they now “pour” any leftover milk out, before recycling the empty milk carton into a blue barrel. Students then “pick” off any landfill-bound trash before “pounding” food scraps from their lunch trays into a green compost barrel. Annsunee Swift and Gail Campopiano, teachers at Northwest championed efforts there, visiting each classroom with a lesson to practice sorting.
As part of their community service learning, CSJ students are in cafeterias once a week helping students learn to separat their food waste.