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By APNWLNS payday loans

Nov 062012

By Barbara Kessler

At many Frisco schools recycling is as routine the passing bells that choreograph the day. Teachers, student clubs and green teams collect paper, soda cans and bottles and toss it in bins located in classrooms and hallways.

Teens enjoy the lunch break at Liberty High School.

Still, this year, the Frisco Independent School District is raising the bar on recycling, and with the help of the city, pushing into new and fertile ground: The lunchroom.

Cafeterias, as educators across the country are realizing, are ripe for recycling. They are simply the single biggest waste factory in any school, churning out hundreds of used plastic bottles, soda cans and paper boxes every day, no, every lunch period, multiple times each day.

In Frisco, the plan is to bring all 52 K-12 schools up to their full recycling potential by making lunchroom recycling mandatory. To ease the way, the district has provided the schools with blue bins for recycling and signs to alert everyone to their purpose. The city is helping out with recycling pep talks in some schools by Environmental Education Coordinator Molly Kinson.

Nick Plasko peruses the beverage bar. Plastic bottles are a major focus of recycling at Liberty High School.

Seth Williams, recycling coordinator for the district, knows that the mission is doable, and that it should generate truckloads of recyclables. Not only that, as the recyclables pile up, the trash pile diminishes. That saves money for the district, because less trash has to be hauled away. And as with all the district’s recycling efforts, the savings is shared with the schools that helped the bottom-line.

So all the schools that participate, also stand to gain a few dollars — make that few hundred dollars, if not a few thousand — that can be used as their discretion every year.

At Fowler Middle School where Williams works a robust student green team already has shown that lunchroom recycling, facilitated by student monitors, can be a very effective way to tamp down trash. Every lunch hour, the Fowler green team sends at least one volunteer to track the flow of trash, coaching kids on how to separate waste and recyclables and get them into the proper receptacles.

The monitors are a key to success, but even schools without them can still make big inroads, Williams says.

“If you have monitors you might get 90 percent of the stuff recycled, if you don’t have monitors, you might get 70 percent. You still get a lot of recycling.”

FISD children learn how to sort recycling starting in elementary school. By high school, many students could recite the drill, posted on this sign at Liberty High School.

Throughout their middle school years, Fowler’s students have learned the ins and outs of recycling — plastic bottles, soda cans go into the recycling, but Styrofoam and plastic utensils go into the trash. Signs help with trickier items, like paper “boats” and milk cartons (waxy coatings=trash) and baggies (trash).

“By the time they get to the high school, they’ve got it down,” Williams says. “It’s just second nature, they know at the end of lunch to go and do their recycling.”

Over at Liberty High School, where Fowler kids end up, the ramp up to lunchroom recycling has been relatively easy, says recycling coordinator Julia Chalker, because “Fowler is like the recycling capital of Frisco ISD.”

It’s also been made easier by an organized lunchroom process that so mellow, you’ll be looking around for the monitors. There they are, on the proscenium at the front of the room, an assistant principal and a teacher .  Students funnel into the school’s spacious cafeteria, chattering at a modest volume and thread their way through the food court, which offers an array of drinks in plastic bottles, but also a range of food items in less bulky packaging, like burgers in bags. There are no trays, a water and trash savings for the schools.

Lunchroom waste presents schools across the country with a challenge. FISD has minimized lunchroom packaging where possible. Still the trash cans fill quickly with non recyclable plates, bowls and waxed boxes.

After a quiet period of munching and socializing, the buzzer sounds and the kids head for the trash bins at the center of the room, filling them within seconds, maybe a minute,  with burger wrappers, Pizza Hut boxes, plastic bowls and refuse from homemade lunches.

Plastic water and soda bottles fill up a blue recycling bin just as fast, though a few wind up in the trash. Chalker says these misfires are all in a day’s work, a reminder to her that some of the kids do still need reminding.

“When they put them in the wrong ones, it’s laziness rather than not having the knowledge,” she says, shaking her head, which is topped with a tam for hat day.

Here’s where the city is helping out. In the elementary schools, where recycling A-B-Cs are still being learned, Frisco’s Environmental Education Coordinator Molly Kinson is speaking to the kids assembled at the lunch hour, reminding them to sort their recyclables and watch out for “Sneaky Six,” the polystyrene plastic that cannot be recycled and must be put in the trash.

Liberty’s students, though,  are well versed in recycling, Chalker says, and even won the city’s “Tree Hugger Award” last year for recycling the most paper of any school in Frisco ISD.

One reason for this success is the enthusiastic “Rocky Red Hawk Recycling Team.” It’s composed of vocational education students who manage recycling at the school as part of a class Chalker teaches. They’ve been enthusiastic and rigorous in maintaining the hallway bins and making sure the recyclables get to the outside collection container.

Jamerson Jones heads for the recycling with a plastic bottle.

“They do it mostly independently and they get graded on their behavior and quality control,” she says. Other high schools, she adds, enlist leadership or green teams to perform these tasks.

Custodian Sally Nunez and principal Phil Brown confirm that Liberty’s new lunchroom recycling is on track two months into the school year.

The only hang up seems to be that some of the kids sometimes toss trash in a receptacle labeled for “liquids” that the kids are supposed to use for leftover soda and water before they pitch a bottle or can into the recycling.

Chalker was momentarily distressed by this turn of events one day last week, noticing trashing in one of these specially marked bins. But as lunch hour proceeded, she realized that these students don’t really need the liquid can, because they’re either drinking all their beverages or saving what’s left.

Perhaps, she muses, this liquid container is better adapted to the elementary level, where kids don’t always drink all their milk.

Nunez nods. She thinks the new lunchroom recycling rollout is proceeding very well indeed.

“The blue bin,” she says with a smile, “is great.”