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2018-2019, Arlington, Virginia, USA

Sophia, Sarah, Angelique, Mayli, Harry, Kevin, Will, Helonna, Anyie, Ivan, Bryant, Tikarra, Alexis, Siya, Hailey, Billy, and Maggie noticed how many items that should have been recycled after lunch were ending up in the trash, and how much trash spoiled what had been placed in the recycling bin.  They decided that the solution was a better sorting system for trash and recycling in their school cafeteria.

They proposed to change the current way they throw out trash and save recycling in their cafeteria. In their improved system they will have different bins for different lunch items. When all the paper and plastic are recycled, their system will keep them out of the landfills and water below the landfills. They will also be saving custodians time and work.

  1. First they will have a separate bin for trash, food, dirty napkins, and plastic packets.
  2. Then students will pour out milk or juice into a separate bucket. The way students do it now, the milk and food make the trays and cartons gross so that they cannot be recycled.
  3. Then, the straws from the milk cartons will be put in a plastic recycling bin.
  4. Plastic containers will also go into the plastic bin.
  5. Next students will throw their empty milk cartons into a separate bin with other paper.
  6. Once the cardboard trays are empty any food left on the tray can be scraped into the trash bin.
  7. Finally, cleaned cardboard trays will be stacked on racks instead of trays being thrown in the trash. Without this, custodians have to take out the trays from the trash with their hands, and put it in another trash bag.

The school principal has approved this change, and students are working out the details with the custodial staff. Having separate trash racks, bins, and buckets will help a lot.  The result will be less plastic in the watershed and more recyclable materials kept clean enough to make recycling easier for everyone.