HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) – One elementary school in Hendersonville is sending most of its food waste to a compost facility instead of local landfills. It’s part of a pilot program the county hopes to roll out to other schools in the future.
Last year, Dana Elementary took stock of exactly how much trash students were sending to local landfills and had a rude awakening.
“We found out that 90 percent of the waste in the cafeteria is compostable, so it just makes sense to capture all that,” said Christine Brown, Environmental Programs Coordinator of Henderson County.
Now, the school is taking part in a pilot composting program through Atlas Organics, which is sponsored by Henderson County Solid Waste.
“On average we had about 11 to 15 trash bags a day and that has gone down to 1 or 2,” Brown said.
The program involves appointing a rotating captain for each class who collects plastic and metal items for the landfill at lunchtime with a 5 gallon bucket.
“It supports the leader me program here and also instills responsibility in the students for this program,” she said.
When the class is dismissed, students line up to compost the rest, which goes to Atlas Organics, an industrial compost facility based in Spartanburg, so it can be turned into soil.
“An industrial compost facility can take all food and all paper, so that’s including your meat, bones, dairy [and] fats,” said Brown.
To reduce waste, school lunches now include compostable milk cartons and trays whenever they can’t use washable plastic trays and plans to switch from plastic-ware to silverware.
School officials say their hope is to teach habits that will last a lifetime.
“We’re really creating that stewardship of the earth starting here in elementary school,” said Brown.
Over the past 4 years, Atlas Organics has worked with 40 schools in our area to reduce waste and all have diverted at least 70 percent of their lunchroom waste to composting.
This year, participating schools include all schools in Spartanburg District 7, all elementary schools in Anderson County District 2 and Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville.