Frederick County, located in Maryland, USA, has a rubbish removal problem — a very costly one! They are currently sending their rubbish all the way to Pennsylvania, where it is tipped into a landfill. Not only is this an environmental disgrace, it is also costing the county so much they have hired various consultants, over the course of two years, to try to find a cheaper way.
After the country rejecting the idea of a waste to energy incinerator, the consultants recommended composting as a way to alleviate their rubbish removal problem. They estimated they could easily save thirty to forty percent, possibly more, by doing so. However, rolling it out across the entire county all at once would be very difficult. So, they decided to try it on a smaller scale pilot study but where?
Joe Richardson, who runs Bar-T educational camp programs for kids, had sat on the committee looking for a way to reduce the rubbish removal costs for the entire two years. He decided that if a pilot composting project were to be started in Frederick County, it should start at the schools. Luckily too, he had ally on the school board, Mike Bunitsky, who enthusiastically supported the idea.
Urbana High School, located in the Frederick County Public School District, offers AP (advanced placement) courses for their students where they can get college credit while still in high school. One of the more popular AP classes there is AP Environmental Science, taught by Elizabeth McCook, a proponent of providing her students, “real life connections,” in her course. In other words, she wants her students to apply what they learn to a practical matter and this seemed like the perfect project to do that!
So, it seems the stars aligned perfectly in Frederick County, Maryland, for AP Environmental Science students to participate in an exciting pilot program that would have real world implications for their county. Not only could they potentially save their country a lot of money, they could divert tonnes of waste from a landfill!
Plus, if this rubbish removal project worked well, it could be spread to other schools, not just in Frederick County, Maryland, but to schools all over the world. In this way, a few individuals could literally change the world and the students involved in this pilot project would be a valuable part of the team that made those changes!
The students are the ones collecting the data and keeping careful track of it. They plan to present their findings to the county and make recommendations based on those findings.
Instead of just two rubbish removal bins in their school cafeteria, one for trash and one for recycling, they now have four bins set up. Each bin has a specific purpose. When the students get done with lunch, they are asked to sort whatever is left into the four bins. It’s a voluntary effort but the kids are gravitating to it quite well. They also have a bit of an incentive as they can win free tickets to athletic games if they participate.
For the first two weeks of the program, trained volunteers will help students sort their lunch leftovers correctly. They are asked to discard their remaining lunch according to the four categories
- Liquid waste (orange container)
- Compostable food and paper (white container)
- Recyclables (big blue container)
- Trash (big black container)
The first six days of the program has already shown the program to be a huge success. Students from the AP Environmental Science class weigh the content of each container. They also go through the compost container to ensure everything in it can indeed be composted. Some items are easy to tell, like orange peel, but other items such as a the french fry cardboard container is not as easy. While it may seem like it could go into the compost bin since it is paper, it cannot because it is coated in wax! So, there is a learning curve but students say it is getting easier as they participate.
The students have already determined that they can divert at least seventy percent of their rubbish removal from the land fill and greatly reduce the cost of getting rid of this waste. In the first six days, they determined they had diverted forty-nine percent from the landfills and there’s room for improvement as participation gets better. They may want to suggest to the school system they change those wax covered french fry containers too!
One of the things that is so wonderful about this pilot program is the success have can be measured and quantified on a day and weekly basis. It’s also something that does not take a lot of initial cost to start (Urbana High School had their bins donated) so other schools, including those in the UK, can copy their experiment and perhaps even improve upon it. If you and your students decide to try something similar, please take the time to let Clearabee, the top rubbish removal company in the UK, know about it. You can contact Clearabee through their Facebook page or Twitter page. You can also contact them directly through their website. Good luck!