April 16, 2011 in Washington Voices

CV schools going compostal

By The Spokesman-Review
Video: The Compost Rap
J. Bart Rayniak photoBuy this photo

Horizon Middle School eighth-grader Lucas Fitzsimmons, left, gets help separating leftover food waste and soiled paper from garbage, as part of the Central Valley School District’s cafeteria composting program. Assisting him, from right, are eighth-grade leadership students Colby Potts, Emma Kennedy and Scott McKinley.
(Full-size photo)

Central Valley School District has launched a new program to help save money and teach students about composting and the environment.

On April 13, the district kicked off a composting program at Horizon Middle School, 3915 S. Pines Road. During lunch, students separated their food waste and soiled paper from their trash. Once a week, the composting bin is picked up by Sunshine Disposal & Recycling to be turned into registered organic compost.

To get them started, leadership students manned the trash bins during the lunches. They explained what they could put in one bin to be composted and what they needed to throw away, and answered questions from other students.

“It’s interesting how all the material we compost will turn into the soil,” said Madison Haase, an eighth-grader who serves as the ASB secretary.

Haase said once kids got the hang of it, they came back again and again with more items to sort.

“It’s cool to know that a lot of food is compostable,” said Haley May, an eighth-grader who serves as the ASB sergeant-at-arms.

Matt Hildahl who teaches math, science and the leadership class, said he has been incorporating the composting project into many of his classes.

“Ninety percent of garbage is compostable,” Hildahl said. He said the project is helping students think about what they throw away on a daily basis.

Horizon keeps several bins in the lunchroom. One is for trash such as Styrofoam trays, plastic forks and anything made with foil, such as Capri Sun pouches.

Another bin is for paper bags, cardboard bowls, apple cores, orange peels and any other leftover food. Students even squeezed out milk they didn’t drink from their plastic milk pouches before they threw those into the trash bin.

Marc Rickey, regional account manager in business development at Sunshine, said it takes about six months for the items collected to become registered organic compost. Once it is ready, the company puts it on the market as Sunshine Royal Classic Organic Compost. It can be purchased at garden supply stores such as Moore Landscaping, Gibson’s Nursery & Landscaping and Bark Boys Landscape Supplies.

Central Valley is one of the first districts in Eastern Washington to compost, although it is required at all school districts in Western Washington.

Rickey said they receive compost material from the Spokane Convention Center, Yoke’s, Trading Co., the Salvation Army and other large businesses and organizations.

Since the district has its own garbage pickup, the composting program will help it save money on disposing the garbage, since there will be significantly less.

Tim Byus, maintenance supervisor at Central Valley, said a few years ago, before the district bought its own truck, the district budgeted about $190,000 a year for waste disposal. Now, it spends around $80,000 and expects that number to drop.

“It’s going to reduce our dumping fees dramatically,” Byus said.

Byus plans to have every school in the district participating by May.

Although the lunchtime composting program at Horizon started with its students this week, the school kitchen staff has been doing this for more than a month. Horizon supplies hot lunches to Central Valley’s 12 elementary schools, the Kindergarten Center, the Early Learning Center and Summit School every day.

Along with the class lessons, Hildahl said he wrote a rap song for the students to sing which – he does this often in his math classes to get students to remember their lessons. A video of the song was played during morning announcements.

The catchy tune has stuck in the students’ heads. Later that day, he heard sixth-graders singing the song in the hallways. “Stop. Think. Sort the trash.”

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