There is some container commotion taking place at Horizon Middle School
The bins themselves are lined up in a cafeteria on South Pines Road and, for students at the campus, the lessons are about depositing leftover food, cardboard and other compostable materials in a way that may take a little more time, but winds up benefiting the environment in the long run.
The “Cafeteria Composting” program officially began last week at Horizon, marking the first time a school in the Central Valley School District has separated compost from garbage. Melanie Rose, spokeswoman for CVSD, said the program is believed to be one of the first of its kind in Eastern Washington.
|Horizon Middle School became the first campus in the Central Valley School District – and one of the first in Eastern Washington – to incorporate a composting program in its cafeteria last week. Students separate leftover food, cardboard, paper bags and other compostable materials from trash at lunchtime.
Photo by Craig Howard
On April 13, representatives from Horizon’s leadership class guided fellow students through the basics of depositing lunch waste in a more efficient manner. As usual, items like Styrofoam trays, plastic utensils and foil-based wrapping found their way into the garbage, but orange peels, paper bags and several picked over sandwiches were redirected into compost bins.
“I think this message is extremely pertinent and timely,” said Matt Hildahl, a seventh grade math and science teacher at Horizon. “Recycling has been popular for years, but composting seems to be at the forefront of the effort right now.”
The district has been working with Airway Heights-based Sunshine Disposal and Recycling to implement the program which is hoped to be in place on more campuses before the end of the school year. Once a week, Sunshine Disposal will haul away the compost from Horizon. It takes around six months for the material to be classified as organic compost at which time it is sold to local landscape supply companies.
Marc Rickey, a regional account manager with Sunshine, said the company also collects compost from grocery stores like Yoke’s and Trading Company, as well as nonprofits like the Salvation Army. The Spokane Convention Center was the first local site to begin comoposting last spring.
Rickey said leftover food and compostable paper products are mixed with “clean green” materials like leaves, branches and landscape refuse to create a soil supplement that is generally added to topsoil.
“It’s a rich nutrient that is known as a ‘soil amendment,’” Rickey said.
In addition to diverting waste from the landfill, the district will save money with the new approach, Rickey added. Instead of paying for traditional waste disposal, CVSD will work with Sunshine at a rate “30 to 40 percent below what they were paying to have it hauled away,” according to Rickey.
Referring to research that shows 90 percent of garbage is compostable, Hildahl expressed hope that the program will motivate local residents to emphasize themes like recycling and composting along with utilizing green-friendly items like reusable shopping bags and water bottles.
“I believe it will make our community more cognizant of what they are doing with their garbage and what items they’re using daily,” Hildahl said.