Garbage doesn't go to waste at Millridge Elementary School, where a volunteer group of students have been collecting table scraps to fill compost containers.
Teachers Amy Hillis, Julie Slisz and Lisa Webb have coordinated the composting effort, which was proposed to the school by the Highland Heights Green Task Force.
Since April 23, a crew of 22 students have gone down the cafeteria aisles with buckets, gathering leftover food that's suitable for composting. "They've learned what is OK – no meat, no dairy," Slisz said.
The result is an average of 9.6 pounds of food a day – about 240 pounds total – that has been diverted from the landfill.
"I have to say I'm very impressed with everything," Highland Heights Green Task Force President Judy Dearden said after watching Slisz and her class give a presentation about the composting program.
Composting committee members are third-graders Vince Ruggieri, Tara Rassi, Zoe Werling, Arabella Haller and Ava Natolli and fourth-graders Joe Criniti, Heidi Ngo, Jacob Larson, Ayden Gerome, Nick Jones, Dante Gambatese, Ethan O'Brien, Mia Murphy, Zoe Roth, Suchi Patel, Marco Tramantano, Jaia Moody, Madison Shaffer, Madeline Kless, Carolina Stefanski, Maddie Sentle and Alicia Ralston.
"We actually had a very good response. We have more volunteers than we needed," Hillis said. Because of the numbers, students take turns collecting food scraps.
To get the program started, Hillis applied for a $520 grant from the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. That paid for materials that included 5-gallon buckets and the two tumblers used to store and turn the compost. Students turn the compost daily.
"They love to turn the tumblers," Slisz said.
On May 8 the compost starting to really heat up, giving off steam when the tumblers were opened. "Steam means it's really working the organics in there," Slisz said.
The compost will be used at the school's garden, where each class has a different crop. "My class has red bell peppers," Slisz said.
Organizers hope the effort will encourage students to make recycling and composting part of their routine and get their families to participate as well.
"We've had more students say they're starting to do this at home," Hillis said.
Dearden, who got the idea after seeing a composting operation at Hawken School, said the children are so enthusiastic and aware of what they need to do that they've taken sandwiches apart to put the bread into the buckets for composting.
"It brings a tear to my eye to see them do it," she said. "If they learn this now, hopefully they'll grow up and start doing this with their children."