Tackling milk waste in cafeterias

Have you ever noticed how much milk is wasted in the cafeteria? Do you see students dumping out all or most of their milk? Are cartons difficult and messy for your custodian to deal with? At Clark County Green Schools, we're working to come up with solutions to the reduce the amount of waste generated by milk served in cartons in school cafeterias. 

Our team started an exciting new pilot project last spring, with the help of Washington Department of Ecology's Local Solid Waste Financial Assistance. Together we're setting up four schools to serve milk in washable cups instead of cartons. We're studying the impact of the milk served from the dispensers by looking at several different areas, like: 

  • amount of milk wasted
  • why aren't students drinking all of their milk
  • cartons not emptied properly
  • number of cartons placed in recycling
  • number of cartons in the garbage

To gather this data for the pilot we will perform waste audits before and after the implementation so we can measure the results of this change.

Our first school, Evergreen Public Schools' York Elementary, launched their milk dispenser at the beginning of the school year and it was received with rave reviews by the students. They say the milk tastes better, they are drinking more milk and wasting less! At the beginning of the pilot we observed an 83% reduction in milk waste. That's amazing! We're excited to see how this continues.

"The district supports and looks for innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint and offer healthy and fresh choices to all students," said Hossein Akhtarkhavari, resident district manager, Chartwells, the food service provider for Evergreen Public Schools.

"We had one parent that said her child came home and couldn't stop talking about the milk dispenser because he thought it was so great."

Dawn Harris, York Elementary principal

One of the biggest concerns we heard from school staff was about spills. At York there have been very few spills, and maybe less than when students drank out of cartons. This hasn't been an issue for custodians at all.

Support of the school community is crucial to the success of this program. Angie, the kitchen manager and Terry, the custodian have done a great job of adapting to change and trying something new.

Battle Ground School District's Laurin Middle School will launch their dispenser project in late October. Principal Matt Kesler says, "Students are really excited! Recently an 8th grade student spent a good portion of her lunch period telling her friends about how cool the milk dispenser is going to be once we get started. We are thrilled to partner with Clark County Green Schools and we hope other schools visit us to learn about the program." 

We will choose two additional schools to partner with. We are looking for partners who have
  • an active green team
  • enthusiastic, can-do attitude
  • administrative, kitchen and custodial support
  • a dishwasher
Look for more videos and updates from our pilot project coming soon! Like us on Facebook to get the latest updates.​

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