This article was submitted by Kaat Vander Straeten.
July 17 was an important day for Claypit Hill School and the Wayland Schools Green Team. That day, the school's composting system was inspected by the Wayland Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
This visit had been long coming.
It started in June 2011, when a Green Team waste audit revealed that, of the 20 pounds of waste collected from the 125 second-graders in one lunch session, only 4 pounds constituted “real” trash, 5 pounds was recyclables, and no less than 11 pounds was food waste. This galvanized the team to start composting these scraps, on site. With the help of volunteers, several high school students and a town employee, . At the start of
school in September, the Team also trained the students in sorting trash, recyclables and organic waste.
Since then, the system has processed almost a school year's worth of lunchroom and cafeteria food scraps.
There was a glitch in October 2011 when the first, experimental bin became the breeding ground for flies.
“It wasn't cooking properly,” explained Molly Faulkner, who spearheads the Green Team Composting Program. “Many composting systems require frequent turning (hard physical labor). Our passive (no-turn) system requires more time, more, space (thus three bins), and more attention when adding daily food
Back then, the Health Department and the DEP recommended that a new bin be started with a different way of layering the “browns” (shredded leaves, high in carbon) and “greens” (food scraps, high nitrogen), and that composting be cut back to just fruits and vegetables. This was the system that was run until the end of the school year.
Two weeks ago, the Health Department and the DEP returned to establish three things.
First, they inspected whether the material in the first bin was suitable as compost. Ann McGovern, consumer waste reduction coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, was impressed with its quality. It abounded in worms and other beneficial insects and passed the sniff-test - it smells like wholesome soil. She affirmed that it was ready to be used in the .
"Composting at school can be a great educational activity, especially when the school has a garden where they can close the composting loop by using the compost they produce,” McGovern said.
The second purpose was to check if the second bin was working properly, and it too received a passing grade. It will be ready for harvesting in November, when it will be put on the vegetable garden to make it ready for spring planting.
Lastly, Julia Junghanns, director of public health for the Wayland Health Department, gave the go-ahead to start the third bin at the beginning of the school year.
"Wayland Health Department staff has enjoyed working with Ann McGovern
of DEP, the Green Team, and the school principal to make this effort a
success and a great learning experience for the students," Junghanns said.
Students can also add grains (bread, pasta) again to the food scrap bucket, along with the fruit and vegetable scraps, but the ban on meat or dairy remains in place.
“I am excited to start year two composting in the cafeteria," Claypit Hill Principal Debbie Bearse said. "The students got the hang of it so easily last year, and I am confident that they will learn the new changes quickly and be able to help the adults.”