Portland Public Schools has a recycling/composting/trash separation
program in cafeterias to recycle more and to compost our food waste.
result? Elimination of Styrofoam trays, a significant reduction in the
amount of trash going to school dumpsters every day and a great
opportunity to model for all students the importance of reducing and
recycling our trash, and how they can be a part of this practice every
This program gives students the opportunity for hands-on
learning about recycling, waste reduction and composting, makes the
district an environmental leader in our own community and a model for
the entire state and supports the district in reaching for the goal of
In years past, cafeterias generated the most trash
of any area in our school buildings. Edible food waste represented an
estimated 25 to 40 percent of the trash generated in district
cafeterias. Add other recyclable and compostable materials currently
used in the cafeterias, and the percentage of waste that could be
diverted from the dumpster during breakfast and lunch increased to an
estimated 80 percent.
Separating stations set up in each
cafeteria allow for each student to separate trash, food waste and
recyclables into a series of bins and buckets. Student Green Teams at
each school, with teacher guidance, form the core group to launch and
monitor the pilot. Through a school-wide training and education effort,
every school community is trained and informed about this “change of
habit," how to separate accurately and why it's important to reduce the
amount of trash that goes to the school dumpster.
The food waste
is being collected a couple of times a week by a commercial composting
operation in Portland, Resurgam Zero Food Waste. Recycling continues to
be picked up by the Portland Department of Public Service. The trash
that remains, significantly less than before, is hauled away by Pine
Tree Waste. This initiative will help the city get closer to the
state’s mandated 50 percent recycling rate for municipalities.