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
WinCup foam food containers

From WinCup.

Cost control.

Two little words that are essential to every foodservice director’s day-to-day activities.

Keeping costs in check is paramount in running a functioning food operation, of course. But the ripples of cost control can extend beyond your bottom line. And savvy directors must balance customer satisfaction on the P&L sheet.

Fiscal Responsibility

The foundation of cost control is accepting fiscal responsibility, which requires a solid understanding of foodservice accounting. Prime cost, the combined cost of food and labor, is an...

Industry News & Opinion

Orange County Community College in upstate New York is replacing its dining staff with vending machines , The Times Herald-Record reports.

The staff members, who will be let go in June, include nine full-time and three part-time workers. Students say they will miss the employees and the access to fresh food.

The Orange County Community College Association, which oversees the school’s cafeterias, says the layoffs were partly due to a $150,000 deficit accumulated by foodservice operations last year.

Read the full story via The Times Herald-Record .

Industry News & Opinion

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, is eliminating paper cups in its Commons dining hall and has given each student a reusable stainless steel mug as a replacement, bates.edu reports.

The mugs were distributed via a promotion earlier this week where students could fill their new mugs with a free smoothie. Stickers and other trinkets were set out for students to use to “bling” their mugs.

Dining services turned to students to determine which type of mug would be offered. The college also installed a mug-washing sink in the dining Commons earlier this year.

Read the...

Industry News & Opinion

Compass has partnered with Jose Andres ’ ThinkFoodGroup, allowing the chef and foodservice vendor to collaborate at such venues as stadiums and college campuses.

“With this partnership, we have the opportunity to tell stories and connect with people through food on an entirely new level,” Andres said in a release.

The three-year team-up comes shortly after Andres opened a ThinkFoodLab pop-up in Washington, D.C., which will serve as a recipe R&D space for his restaurant group.

ThinkFoodGroup was this year named a Power 20 multiconcept operator by Restaurant...

FSD Resources