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Most school districts have adopted recycling programs, and children have been educated on the importance of recyclable items, such as plastics, cans, glass, cardboard, and paper. Student’s participate in collecting, and separating these items with an understanding that they can be reused for manufacturing purposes when turned into the proper facility.  In consequence, both children, and adults have accepted ways that individually they can contribute to making a difference, and having a positive effect on the environment.

Composting is a form of recycling waste from organic materials, which means materials that originated from plants, and animals. In order for an item to be compostable, there must be scientific evidence that the item will break down, or become part of, usable compost that will provide valuable nutrients to the soil without releasing any metals, or toxins into the compost. In contrast, biodegradable products just return to nature, disintegrating, or disappearing completely with a potential to leave metal residue in their return to nature. The whole idea is to reduce the large amount of organic material presently disposed of in landfills, by returning organic materials back to the Earth where it originated. Moreover, composting in schools provides an opportunity for educators to emphasize on the interaction between biological, chemical, and physical processes by incorporating scientific and discovery into the curriculum.

Not all food material can be realistically composted on site at a school. Subsequently, the following materials can be composted: Fruit, vegetative waste, and grain food scraps from the cafeteria; in addition to other waste such as: grass clippings, yard debris, sawdust, and leaves. In contrast, commercial composting takes the process off-site, and away from students, but this option expands compostable materials to include: meat, bones, fish, dairy, baked goods, fruits, vegetables, food-soiled paper, paper towels, napkins, yard debris, waxed cardboard, and plant trimmings. In addition, off-site composting options provide a school with an assured quality of finished compost that can be used in their school garden.

Consequently, schools are now proactive in conducting waste audits with the intention of implementing a school compost program based on the volume of compostable material generated by the cafeteria. Schools begin the process in a cumulative way: First, compost salad bar material once a week; once successful, then begin to compost salad bar materials every day. Next, composting the food scraps from lunches on a voluntary basis; then add the composting of classroom snacks, breakfast foods, and after-school program snacks.

In addition to the recycling bins, composting would require a sorting station containing clearly labeled bins that read, “Fruits, Vegetables, and Napkins” or “Food Scraps,” for example. Students who approach the sorting station scrape their food waste, and trash into the appropriate bin. Usually there are students assigned as “compost monitors” in the cafeteria readily available with gloves to assist in the process.

Next, if composting on-site, the waste is added to bin along with a carbon source such as leaves or sawdust. There are different types of on-site bin systems, both large, and small scale, which include: Vermicomposting (composting using worms); Compost Tumbler (a mounted barrel that is spun by a handle); and as a variant: Metal Barrel Composting, and Sheet Mulching (an option for conversion into a garden bed).

In closing, composting is an important experience where children can do more than just recycling, but they become aware of the entire cycle, from food scraps to something that can be added to school gardens.     

Big Universe’s collection of ebooks:

  • Ways To Grow! Gardening Composting 
  • Composting At School 
  • Green Gardening and Composting 
  • Really Rotten Truth About Composting
  • The ABC’s of the Environment 
  • Super Soils.

Additionally, children begin to understand how organic wastes can be recycled as a potential resource. Presently, the trash has grown into the conceptual framework of an out of sight, out of mind, philosophy, and schools of the 21st century are now taking a more active role in making a positive effect on the environment by adopting a composting program as a whole-school approach.

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