School Waste Sorting, Composting & Recycling

According to the Drawdown initiative, reducing food waste is the 3rd most effective strategy (out of 80!) for reversing global warming. Composting is #60.  When it comes to mobilizing partners and schools to address problems with wasted food, contaminated recycling, and the weight and volume of landfilled waste, MEE’s Founder and School Composting Facilitator, Joe Richardson, Sr., is a champion.

Through his service with the Frederick County What’s Next initiative, the Composting Working Group, and the Southern Frederick Rotary Club, Joe mobilizes funders, Rotary volunteers, school officials, Key Compost, and most importantly students to take action by sorting out food waste, liquids, and recyclables in 13 Frederick County schools, weighing them to measure impact, and having food waste picked up and composted off site.

Good food thrown away
Unopened/unpeeled food retrieved from trash during Waste Sorts at 4 schools

It all got started in 2018 when Urbana High successfully implemented a pilot for waste sorting and composting. Watch the video below to learn how Urbana High School incorporated waste sorting and composting.

In January 2019, Joe instigated waste sorting and composting at Urbana Sugarloaf Elementary. Pilots begin with a “Waste Sort” during which students donned gloves and picked through all their trash sorting out food for composting, perfectly good unopened food that could have been shared or brought back home (see photo at left), recyclables, liquids, and trash. All components are weighed so everyone can see the impact. During the first two days of the program, 87% of the “trash” that would have gone to the landfill was diverted! Liquids made up 24% of the weight — these were poured down the drain. 10% of the weight were recyclables. A whopping 53% was food waste to be picked up and composted, leaving just 13% of total weight (just 23 lbs. per day) headed for the landfill.

Lunch Waste Sorting

During fall 2019, Lunch out of Landfills! was rolled out in 13 Frederick County schools. If your school is interested in launching a pilot program to separate and compost food waste, take a look at MEE’s Lunch Out of Landfills! Toolkit for how to get started. If you are interested in consultation and support for rolling out your program, contact Joe Richardson.

Resource for Launching Lunch Out Of Landfills! in Your School:

Lunch Out of Landfills! Toolkit, including a Step-by-Step Guide, links to needed supplies, curriculum, videos, volunteer guide, and many other resources.

Press Coverage:

October 18, 2019: The Journal: World Affairs seminar at Shepherd University addresses climate change

August 30, 2019: Urbana Courier: Food Waste and Composting Program Expands to Three More Urbana Schools

August 8, 2019: Frederick News-Post: FCPS gears up for pilot composting program with training

May 21, 2019: Hawkeye: Urbana High School improves the environment with Composting Program

January 17, 2019: LOCALDVM: Urbana High School has composting initiative to help the environment

January 11, 2019: Frederick News-Post: High marks for Urbana High School as students divert half of cafeteria trash from landfill