Students began by conducting waste audits, which addressed the following questions:
How much waste was being sent to the landfill?
What types of waste were being generated?
Is there contamination in the recycling streams?
Which waste streams can be replaced with recyclable, reusable, and/or compostable alternatives?
Sorting food waste
Using the insights found in their audits, Carmel students implemented changes to the operations and waste program, which included a composting program within the cafeteria to eliminate food waste being sent to landfill. Later on,faculty and staff requested to also have a compost collection in the faculty room and art room.
Students also set up waste stations in the cafeteria with student “bin monitors” to assist students in the process of storing their lunch waste and continually educate them on which lunch items go in which bins.
The school also worked alongside their cafeteria food management provider to replace any cafeteria goods destined for landfill, with compostable/reusable/recyclable alternatives. This included:
Replacing single use ketchup packets with bulk containers to eliminate packaging
Replacing single use plastic forks and knives with wooden, compostable chopsticks and reusable cutlery packets.
Improving Classroom Recycling
Students assessed the various types of waste bins in each classroom in the building. After identifying which rooms did not have recycling bins, Carmel used the Illinois Green Allliance mini grant funds to purchase new recycling bins for rooms without them.
Students designed their own creative signage for waste bins which are now consistent throughout the building. Carmel’s nighttime custodial staff does not have the capacity to remove any other waste streams from classrooms in addition to trash. This is why, up until this past year, most of the classrooms did not have recycling bins. As part of this project, the student ambassadors proposed reintroducing the recycling bins and collecting them themselves every week. As a result, there are now recycling bins in every classroom which is being emptied weekly.
Eliminating electronic waste
The classes hosted an IT collection day in which faculty and staff inventoried and assessed which IT equipment they no longer needed. Student ambassadors went door to door collecting the surplus equipment from classrooms to be evaluated and inventoried. Any non-functioning or obsolete IT equipment was recycled through a recycling partner and any good-condition equipment is now being stored by IT for use by faculty and staff before purchasing new equipment.
The school also implemented a battery recycling program for faculty and staff.
Carmel student ambassadors created training videos to educate students and staff on how to manage waste properly. These training videos were played during morning homeroom anytime a new aspect of the waste program was implemented.
An average of 16.62 kg (36.62 lbs) of food waste was diverted from waste to compost daily. This is equivalent to 2,991 kg over a 9-month period or school year.
An average of 2.5 kg of plastic cutlery was diverted from waste daily through implementation of reusable utensil kits.
Classroom and office waste
24.2 kg of recycling (Bottles and cans) and 11 kg of paper were diverted daily from waste. This is estimated to be 4,356 kg and 1,980 kg respectively over a 9-month period or school year.
The weighed IT material that was collected from classrooms resulted in 667 pounds of recycled equipment and 15 pounds of usable equipment, which was kept for faculty use.
Following their E-waste program, the team hopes to conduct an E-waste and used batteries collection on an annual basis. The school plans to switch to compostable packaging for sandwiches and yogurt in the cafeteria. They also hope to be free of plastic water bottles on campus by next year. Furthermore, when the cafeteria gets renovated in the next two years, the school plans to install a dishwasher to implement a reusable/returnable silverware program.