The Clark County Green Schools team partnered with La Center School District to roll out a district wide cafeteria composting program this year! Our team worked collaboratively with La Center students and staff to collect data about cafeteria waste by completing waste audits.
The waste audit is the most informative data Clark County Green Schools collects. This data allows our team to track behavioral changes around food waste prevention and waste reduction education. Waste audits are as glamorous as they sound – our team gets our hands dirty and learns about cafeteria waste firsthand! The Clark County Green Schools team and Waste Connections educators sort and measure waste at schools. We always appreciate the Green Teams brave enough to take on the challenge!
When conducting waste audits, we look for two things: contamination rates and the total amount of waste produced. Our goal is for each waste stream to be as "clean" as possible and to send minimal organic waste to the landfill. The idea is to have only recyclables in the recycling, only trash in the garbage, and only food waste in the compost bin.
Collecting data proves that lasting change is made. Our 2023 High School Green Awards winner, La Center's Environmental Action Team (E.A.T.) implemented sort tables and an education campaign throughout the entire school district. Let's look at the before and after data!
Before La Center Middle School installed its composting system, its trash cans were weighing 69.4 pounds a day! Of this waste, almost 50% was food waste (33.7 lbs/day). At the end of the school year, their garbage bins weighed 15.6 lbs/day. The middle school reduced its organics in the garbage to 20% of the total weight (3.5 lbs/day).
Comparatively, at La Center High School, their garbage bins weighed 50.9 lbs/day with 56% of their landfill waste being food waste (28.2 lbs/day). In just one school year, La Center High School reduced its garbage total to 10.5 lbs/day with food waste making up 3% of the total weight (0.3 lbs/day)!
There is a clear reduction of food waste headed to the landfill. Based on this data, La Center Middle School reduced its yearly indirect production of methane by 20,656.8 lbs (9.36 metric tons). La Center High School reduced its yearly indirect methane emissions by 19,083.6 lbs (8.6 metric tons).
One of the most difficult aspects of source-separating waste is educating students and school staff about how to properly use the sort table. Above are the before and after measurements of La Center High School's cafeteria recycling bin. Before installing a sort table and creating education campaigns, almost half of the recycling bin contents should have gone to the landfill. After E.A.T.'s year of hard work and dedication, they reduced their recycling contaminants to just 8%!
Finally, the food waste bins. In a single school year, the entire LaCenter School District learned how to sort their cafeteria waste. Clearly, E.A.T. did an excellent job at making a lasting difference! Their food waste bins have very little contamination. This means the food waste they divert every day successfully gets converted to compost.
Thank you, LaCenter High School, for being bold enough to take on this project! Congratulations on showing how changing one habit can make a huge impact for us all. Act local, think global!
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