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Oyster River Waste Audit

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Articles written by Nori Sandin and Grace Webb

Students sorting waste at Oyster River High School in 2020
The 2020 Oyster River waste audit. Courtesy of Nori Sandin.

How to Create Less Waste With Your School Lunch

When it comes to school lunch, it’s important to set yourself some time aside to pack one. In giving yourself this time, you’re able to choose the right ways to package your foods, instead of just using a bunch of plastic bags when you’re in a rush. Reusable containers are great for school lunches, even if they’re plastic, glass containers are great so you can reheat your food in the microwave when you get to school. If you want to bring a soup or a liquid meal to school, thermos containers are great! But what should you use when you need something to wrap your food like a plastic bag? This is something a lot of families struggle with and where most of the lunch waste comes into play. The perfect solution is beeswax wrap, which is a sustainable product that can act as tinfoil, parchment paper, seran wrap, and plastic bags!

It’s also important to pack the amount of food that you will most likely eat, and not overpack, to eliminate food waste--a huge problem in America. A lot of parents, especially parents of younger children in elementary school, will get frustrated with their kids if they don’t finish eating their lunch. This leads to the kids dumping the food out that they don’t eat before arriving home so they don’t get in trouble. This problem can easily be solved by noting how much you or your kid eat and just packing that amount of food! It’s also totally okay if you overpack a day for lunch, just make sure to bring the excess food back home rather than tossing it!

The Compost System Design

In 2020, the Oyster River High School sustainability club completed a waste audit surveying the high school’s management of waste. The results of the audit indicated that over 7,000 pounds of organic materials are being improperly disposed of each year, most of which is coming from classrooms. Each year, thousands of pounds of waste could be composted and recycled back into the Earth as nutrient rich compost rather than being incinerated. The ORHS sustainability club determined that reframing the compost system at the high school would be the most effective way to mitigate the excess waste sent to the incinerator.

In the 2020-2021 school year, a subcommittee of the sustainability club was formed to reconstruct the compost system at ORHS. The Compost System Design (CSD) subcommittee started by designing an initial program to expand the high school’s primary focus from just the cafeteria to include classrooms throughout the building, then met with custodial staff, administrators, and teachers, and initiated a trial run of the program. After gathering feedback and revising the system, the CSD group is concentrating their current efforts on presenting the system to staff, with an emphasis on educating faculty about the benefits and importance of composting, while detailing the new plans for the compost system. The CSD group looks to integrate the new compost system into the culture of ORHS to ensure it’s sustainable for many years to come.

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