District cuts costs by reducing waste

Salida Union’s recycling and pulping program has cut waste by 75%.

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

One school district has found a way to make green by going green.

Earlier this year Salida Union School District, in California, started a waste reduction program at one elementary school. The program, a combination of recycling and pulping, reduces one school’s trash by 75%.

Salida now recycles cardboard—which is baled and sold—metal cans, plastic and polystyrene products, including Styrofoam. Waste that cannot be recycled is being pulped and converted into a material that potentially be used as a fertilizer for grass.

For Billy Reid, director of child nutrition services, the styrene component is the most exciting. “There are so many products that are styrene and that’s the bulk of the volume that goes into the waste stream,” Reid says. “We see our greatest reduction in volume and cost savings on waste removal once we remove the Styrofoam. I have [starting buying] everything possible to Styrofoam or styrene.” That includes knives, forks and spoons.

Those styrene products are melted into blocks and picked up by a company, which pays Reid for the blocks. The company then uses the blocks to create items such as car bumpers, flowerpots and picture frames. The company is then donating the frames to the school, where students will decorate them and then sell them to parents. That’s a win-win, according to Reid. “That creates non-food fundraising, which fits in with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” he says.

To sort the recycled products, the district’s maintenance team built a custom cabinet with compartments for cardboard, tin cans, plastic, styrene and waste. Each compartment has photos next to it so the students can see what items go in what compartment. The trays are stacked in the bottom of the cabinet.

After all the recyclables have been removed from the waste stream, the school’s trash is reduced from 25 garbage cans per day to between six and eight. Those six garbage cans of trash are picked up by a district employee—the position was created specifically for the waste reduction program—and brought to the central warehouse, where a pulper room was built.

Once the trash is brought to the room, the containers are lifted by a can tipper and their contents dumped onto a table. The trash is then scraped into the pulper, which adds water to create a slurry. The slurry is then pumped into a hydroextractor, which removes the moisture. At this point, the six cans of waste that Reid started with has been reduced by about 85%. The waste then goes into a dehydrator, which turns it into a sawdustlike material. At this point, the waste has been reduced by another 10%.

After the process, which takes about nine hours, is complete, the six garbage cans of waste have been turned into a one-gallon bag of sawdustlike material.

Reid says that he fills less than one garbage can of the sawdust product each week. “You’re looking at an entire week’s worth of waste, minus the recyclables, for one school in less than a garbage can.”

As an added bonus: Garbage bags have been eliminated. Trash and recycling now go directly into garbage cans. And by recycling Styrofoam trays, Reid sees an additional cost saving. “I pay 3 cents for a Styrofoam tray,” he says. “I can pay 8 to 12 cents for a biodegradable one. But the minute it comes into contact with food you can compost it but you can’t recycle it. The fastest composting system I could find was 45 to 60 days. My process is nine to 10 hours.” 

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
Mrs. T’s pierogies

From Mrs. T’s Foodservice.

Today’s college and university students demand customization, but they also seek out creative riffs on familiar dishes, making comfort food an area of opportunity for college & university operators.

This is especially true as more restaurants across all sectors add comfort-food favorites such as meatloaf, potato tots and loaded fries to menus.

Operators are already starting to see how a comforting, customizable ingredient such as pierogies meets those needs: Menu mentions of pierogies as an entree are up 9.3% over the last two years,...

Sponsored Content
local produce

From WinCup.

Today’s students care deeply about sustainability—much more so than the general population. For them, sustainable practices are visit drivers. What’s more, some 57% of students are willing to pay more for sustainable foods, according to Technomic’s recent College & University Consumer Trend Report . Sustainable claims drive visits, especially for young consumers: Some 31% of Gen Zers say they’re more likely to visit restaurants that try to be sustainable.

Students are looking for foodservice operations with comprehensive sustainability programs, and...

Industry News & Opinion

Mayfield High School in Mayfield, Ohio, has opened a coffee cart in its cafeteria, The News-Herald reports .

Open throughout the day, the cart sells 12-ounce cups of coffee for $2 each. Students were able to taste-test some of the offerings and were also involved in choosing the cart’s name.

The drinks are made with low-fat milk and unsweetened flavor syrups, and soy milk is on hand for those with allergies. To encourage more breakfast participation, the school gives students 50 percent off coffee when they also buy a breakfast item. Additionally, the cart is stationed next...

Sponsored Content
boston college acai bowl

From Dannon Foodservice.

Catering to the go-go-go lifestyle of university students is a challenge, and it’s one that Boston College dining representatives wrestle with daily.

“Students don’t just want to eat dinner between 5 and 7 p.m.,” says Beth Emery, the school’s director of dining. “They may want to eat dinner at 9 o’clock. We’ve been trying to come up with creative solutions.”

Those creative solutions include everything from offering breakfast items throughout the day to providing healthier late-night choices to trolling social media for trendy new menu ideas...

FSD Resources