Twinsburg school trash bins part of 'Zero Waste' plan

by Andrew Schunk | Editor Published:

Twinsburg -- With a zero tolerance policy for excessive lunch time waste, students in each of Twinsburg's five schools are on schedule to reduce the district's lunch time rubble footprint in half -- which had been marking at a 4-ton-per-day clip.

The Twinsburg City School District has teamed up with the Summit Akron Solid Waste Management Authority to manage waste more responsibly, according to Mark Bindus, dietitian with the district. The county recycling agency either has or will drop off several 90-gallon tote containers, each marked for different types of recyclable material, at Twinsburg High, R.B. Chamberlin Middle, Dodge Intermediate, Bissell Elementary and Wilcox Primary schools, in a designated area of each cafeteria.

There is no charge to Twinsburg schools for the recycling program.

"We've always done can and bottle [recycling], and now we're introducing composting," Bindus said Dec. 10. "At Wilcox [Primary School] we knocked our lunch time [regular] trash from six, 50-gallon bags to two [50-gallon] bags. That's six cans of trash down to two cans of trash every day."

The "Zero Waste Recycling Centers," which comprise three, 90-gallon containers, already have been set up at the high school, Wilcox and Dodge. R.B. Chamberlin and Bissell will receive their containers sometime early in 2013, Bindus said.

"With each school we've had to tweak the program to reach to reach our 'clientele,'" Bindus said. "Different grades and ages have different habits."

The recycling stations' message directs students to place all plastic materials, metal cans and glass bottles into the blue recycling container; all compostable items (such as left-over food scraps, paper towels and other paper products) in the green containers; and any other trash into the gray trash bins.

So far, Twinsburg High School averages 2.5, 90-gallon totes per day; Wilcox averages 1, 90-gallon tote; and Dodge averages 1.5, 90-gallon totes per day.

"The high school went from 16 to 20 50-gallon [regular trash] bags to six to eight bags after the program began," Bindus said. "Our goal was to reduce the amount of [lunch] trash in the district in half ... we're on par to do more than that."

Yolanda Walker, executive director of the SASWMA, said Twinsburg was one of the first to sign on to the program -- and confirmed the local district's early success.

"They had 8,600 pounds of redirected waste in November alone -- that is just huge," Walker said.

At each school and above each bin is a color-coordinated banner, explaining where each item can be deposited. The district has a training guide and video available at www.twinsburg.k12.oh.us under "Food Service/Wellness."

Additionally, Bindus and his staff have eliminated all foam products in the district by switching to compostable and paper products. The district also uses reusable Cambro lunch trays that reduce or eliminate the need for single-use disposable containers.

"As much as possible, we have tried to simplify the recycling process so that students have to do a minimal amount of separating," Bindus said, adding that 75-90 percent of what is on the lunch trays is compostable.

A minimum of regular trash cans at each school during the lunch hour encourages students to use the "Zero Waste" recycling stations, Bindus said.

SASWMA funds the recycling collection containers, pick-up services, promotional tool kits and conducts educational training for staff and students. The recyclable refuse is taken from the Twinsburg City School District to Rosby's, a berry farm in Cuyahoga County, for use as compost material.

"Twinsburg really jumped on the concept of diverting not only food scraps, but bottles and cans as well," Walker said. "We're very proud to have them in our profile of participants. They make sure the idea [of recycling] is imbedded in the culture of their school."

Email: aschunk@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9424

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