April 22, 2010 in Washington Voices

East Valley reroutes its trash

District says schools’ waste disposal will be cheaper, greener
By The Spokesman-Review

East Valley maintenance workers Rick Williams, in truck, and Joe Shanholtzer pause after collecting garbage from dumpsters at East Valley High School before heading to Skyview Elementary on April 5. EVSD has taken over the collection of its own garbage to save money and boost recycling.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

Like most school districts in the area, the East Valley School District is looking for ways to save money.

One of those ways was unveiled the week students returned from spring break – the district is taking over its own garbage collection.

Funded by a $120,000 loan from Spokane County, the district hopes to save half of what it was paying to Waste Management after it pays off the loan. The district had been paying Waste Management about $70,000 annually for garbage collection.

“After that, well, it’s money in the bank,” said Brian Wallace, director of technology for the district.

Wallace said the idea to take over garbage collection came from Pete Kirchner, the maintenance department supervisor.

Kirchner said he looked at what other districts were doing with their garbage collection. Central Valley has been collecting its own garbage for a few years now, but since East Valley can’t partner with other districts, Kirchner looked into finding a used truck.

The truck cost the district $95,000 plus tax and the district had to purchase its own containers for $13,000.

Four employees of the maintenance department were trained and required to get commercial driver’s licenses. They will serve the district’s 15 facilities.

Saving money isn’t the only benefit the district expects from the new undertaking. East Valley also hopes to boost its paper and cardboard recycling program and will look into composting food waste. Composting would help the district’s Farm to School project, a community garden on the northwest corner of Sullivan Road and Wellesley.

Wallace said the district hopes to teach students about being environmentally responsible.

“It’s going to help them grow,” he said.

He added that the composting and recycling projects will require changes in habit. Students must be taught how to separate food waste from containers and other items. But if the district starts training students in elementary school, it will be second nature by the time they are in high school.

Wallace said schools in Western Washington have been doing this for years.

“We’re probably going to start composting before recycling,” Kirchner said.

It has been a couple of weeks now since the district made the switch, and Kirchner said he is pleased with the way things are going.

The district had to modify its routes a little, but other than that, there haven’t been too many problems.

He said the employees seem to like it, too.

“They are sitting in a big vehicle all day playing with a joystick.”

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