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Byram Hills Students Call 'Waste Free' Lunches A Success

With guidance from parent volunteer Aimee Marcus, Wampus fifth-grader Sam Berglund tips his tray into the compostables bin. Photo Credit: Byram Hills School District
Fourth-graders Chiara Polvara, Alexa Justman and Alyx Marvin show off their reusable lunch containers. Photo Credit: Byram Hills School District

ARMONK, N.Y. -- Students in the Byram Hills School District learned an important lesson about nature: A rind is a terrible thing to waste, as is a napkin and an apple core — or even half a chicken nugget.

H. C. Crittenden Middle School and Wampus and Coman Hill elementary schools participated in "Waste Free Lunch Week," a PTSA initiative designed to raise awareness about the merits of reusable lunch containers and the value of sorting lunch waste into recyclables, compostables and trash.

“This is about more than recycling,” said North Castle parent Allison Miller, who spearheaded the effort . “We’re teaching students about creating less waste.”

With the help of parent volunteers as well as custodians and lunch aides, organizers said they saw a huge improvement in both using reusable containers and separating trash from recyclables and organics for composting.

The district uses compostable lunch trays and corn-derived flatware in the schools. Better participation and more thorough sorting of organic waste would help reduce trash collection costs.

The refresher on trash reduction and sorting was noticeably effective for the middle school students, Crittenden Assistant Principal Kim Lapple said.

“We saw a marked improvement in how kids sorted their trash and saw more reusable lunch bags and reduced Ziplock use,” she said, noting recycling and compost was up and the trash bins were less full.

The concept even became a little competitive at Coman Hill where students, learning about the importance of waste reduction, were eager to switch to reusable containers and show them off, Miller said.

“One student, who came to school with a sandwich wrapped in both foil and plastic wrap on Monday, showed up on Tuesday with a completely waste-free lunch,” she said.

“He was so proud. These students are a great audience for this type of message, they’re so eager to please."

Although her initiative may have made progress last week, Miller identified another challenge as she observed student cafeteria habits.

“We have to educate children about the use of water bottles,” she said. “We see students buy a water bottle, take a couple of sips, and throw it out. That’s not just a waste of money, it’s creating unnecessary waste.”

Miller would like to see students bring water bottles from class to lunch, where they could be refilled. “It’s about developing a different mindset.”

She hopes to continue this initiative with Waste Free Wednesdays in both elementary schools to keep the message fresh, as well as demonstrate composting techniques and results.

She looks forward to the day when it’s cool to be green at school.

“Instead of having the coolest sneakers, how about the coolest lunch box?”

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