Students Adjust to New Composting System

Madison Fernandez, ‘17

Liquids, cardboard, food scraps, trays, and landfill… where does your trash go? Starting in early October, BHSEC has initiated an organics collection in the cafeteria and faculty lounge in accordance with the NYC Department of Sanitation composting program. In the 2012-2013 school year, the program ran in 90 schools throughout the city. This year, it has extended to 700 schools in New York City. Although this system is promoting care for the environment, is it more troublesome than it is worth?

Whether students come with lunch from home or purchase school lunch, they are affected by the composting system. When throwing trash out, it is no longer as simple as dumping everything into the garbage can. Students can seen hesitating before the five bins while a teacher watches to ensure proper disposal. Quent Alleyne, a 10th grader, says that after his lunch, “it is a little frustrating considering it takes a while to do it, but since I know I’m benefitting the environment, I believe that all in all it’s worth it.”

Even if it seems to be more of a nuisance than a benefit, proper trash disposal helps promote a green future. In New York City, 31% of the waste generated comes from organic waste. Organic waste includes food scraps, napkins, and plates. By placing the waste into the specified bins, it is collected and turned into compost. Compost is used as soil and a source of energy for many parks, streets, and homes throughout the city.

Through its composting program, BHSEC is raising awareness about the environment. Although students know why they are composting, there is still confusion as to what they have to compost. “Do you compost gum?” asked a worried student while looking at the posters with pictures for its respective can. Signs are little help compared to an actual person providing support. When someone is standing and supervising disposal, a sense of accountability is promoted. Zoe Fruchter, a sophomore, commented that composting is “annoying at first, but Ms. Stemmer was extremely helpful.” Ms. Stemmer, who carefully watches the composting station during 3rd period, says that the system is “going well, but it is going to take a while before students, who have picked it up faster than the adults, compost reflexively.”

Evelyn, one of the main cooks, says that the compost has brought “flies that are unsanitary in a lunchroom environment.” Because of this, as well as space issues, it is hard to put composting stations in more than one place throughout the school. Some students have wondered where their garbage goes while outside or on other floors of the building, but it is inconvenient to walk to the lunchroom just to throw out trash. Although there has been no direct impact on the cleanliness of the lunchroom, students have put more thought into where their garbage goes and what they do with it.

A collective effort is needed to help our environment. From the lunchroom staff’s point of view, approximately 80% of the students in the lunchroom follow the composting rules. These regulations include unfinished drinks in the liquids bucket, food scraps and compostable trays in the brown bin, plastics, metals, and glass in the recycling bin, and everything else in the trash bin. With time, everyone will acclimate to the composting system and the requirements will become second nature. Composting may not directly benefit BHSEC itself, but the system raises awareness and inspires students to become more conscious about what they are doing and how they themselves affect the environment.

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