Where Does Your School Waste Go?
We need to start thinking about the possible unintended consequences of our decision making when it comes to disposing of waste at schools. What really happens to our waste when we dispose of it? As a class exercise why not try to track the waste that is dumped into the schools’ bins? This includes waste from the gardens, sports fields, school canteen, labs, classrooms and administration block. You may be surprised where it all ends up. If we know where our waste ends up, and it’s not in a place that is environmentally friendly, then we need to do something about it. Most waste is recyclable. We can start by sorting the waste at the point of disposal. A colour coded waste system does the trick by offering a bin for a specific waste category.
Recycling companies can then collect the specific type of waste that they recycle. Some will even pay your school to collect specific waste. For example, some farm feed suppliers will either pay to collect your canteens’ food waste or provide the service free of charge. Make sure the colour coded bins are made from recycled plastic and are strategically placed.
The key to change waste disposal habits is by educating pupils, parents and staff with proper communication and signage reminding them to take the time to place waste material into the correct bin.
Disposing Of Canteen Food Waste
Another novel way of recycling your schools’ canteen food waste is by farming by introducing a worm farm at your school. It is a wonderful way to educate pupils on how it is possible to live with the environment in a symbiotic relationship. See nature working in ‘living colour’. Worm farms are a great way to recycle your schools’ food scraps and waste into fertile compost which can then be re-used in the schools’ gardens and sports fields.
The resultant fertiliser also adds microorganisms to the soil and improves water holding capacity. Take it one step further and plant your schools very own veggie garden and use the organic worm farm compost to enhance your crop yield. There is power in the worms ;
If your school does not have the resources for a worm farm, then a simple composter will also go a long way to recycle some of the food and garden waste for re-use in your schools’ gardens.
Practically anything that has lived at some stage can go into compost. This includes mowed lawn garden clippings and garden weeds plus fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps. These are all rich in nitrogen and carbon which can be broken down relatively quickly to form compost.
How To Make Good Compost
The key to making good compost is getting the balance right between the carbon content and the nitrogen content. At least two-thirds of the mix should consist of material high in carbon like dry leaves, bark, sawdust, shredded paper, wood ash, egg cartons (pulp) and dry grass. Materials high in nitrogen include weeds, pruning, cut flowers, vegetable scraps, fruit peelings, and freshly cut lawn.
Oxygen exposure is critical to the process. The final product is moist and has a fibrous texture. It’s dark in colour and smells earthy – ready to enrich your schools garden soil for planting. A good class exercise is to find out how to build a composter and then build one as a group project.