St. Paul Catholic School got a little greener Tuesday with the launch of a new lunchtime composting program.
The program — B the 1: Recycling that works — is a food-scrap recycling effort that turns lunchroom waste into compost for growing berries. It’s implementation at the Firestone Park-area parish is an outgrowth of last year’s Lenten series, which was spearheaded by the parish’s social justice committee and focused on taking care of the planet’s resources.
“We believe that our creator, God, has left the world in our hands to pass on to generation after generation. It is our job to preserve it, protect it and take care of it so that it continues to serve all of God’s people,” the Rev. Ralph Thomas, pastor at St. Paul’s, said. “How we dispose of our refuse is important because we don’t want to destroy God’s creation. It’s really about good stewardship.”
On Tuesday, Shelly Kadilak, education and promotion specialist for the Summit-Akron Solid Waste Management Authority, talked to the 200 students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade about composting. She instructed them to throw away plastic — straws, sandwich bags, juice boxes, etc. — in regular trash cans. Organic waste (anything that comes from a living thing), she said, should be placed in the large green composting receptacle.
“Food scraps and even the new [compostable] lunch trays that you are seeing for the first time today can go into the container,” Kadilak said. “Juice boxes can be a little tricky because if you tear them, you can see the fuzzy fibers that tell you they are paper that comes from a tree. But if you look closely, there is a thin layer of plastic or foil; that means it’s not compostable and should be thrown in the trash.”
Seven-year-old Andrew Kamsingh listened intently as Kadilak explained how worms eat the food scraps and create soil that can be used to grow crops. The second-grader said he had experience making compost by putting an apple into his garden at home and watching it decompose, being eaten by worms and eventually turning into soil his mother used in her flower garden.
“This is a good idea because we can make more compost to help the world. We throw a lot of bad things into landfills, and it can even go into the ocean and kill the mammals there,” Andrew said. “The new trays are much better than the Styrofoam ones. They [foam ones] can cause all kinds of problems.”
No more polystyrene
As part of the program, the polystyrene foam lunch trays have been replaced by compartmentalized compostable trays. The polystyrene foam is made from nonrenewable resources and contains toxic substances. It never really biodegrades but breaks down into small pieces that often make their way into waterways and are eaten by wildlife. A 1986 EPA report named the manufacturing process for expanding polystyrene foam as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste. Some cities and counties in California, Oregon and New York have adopted laws that ban or regulate the use of polystyrene foam in food packaging.
The local parish plans to expand its use of compostable items by replacing its polystyrene and plastic sporks, forks, spoons and cups with compostable products. Its program will serve as a pilot for parish schools throughout the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
Robert Brodbeck, principal at St. Paul, said the composting program is a welcome addition to the school’s commitment to good stewardship.
The school, which also participates in a paper recycling program, joins about 50 other businesses and schools in the composting program, which is organized through the Summit-Akron Solid Waste Management Authority.
“Each week, we have been throwing away hundreds of Styrofoam trays and teaching our children to take care of the planet. Now, we are taking steps to help them do just that,” Brodbeck said. “Every chance we get, we try to involve our students in real-life experiences that help them enhance what they are learning. This is one of those real-life experiences that reinforces what they are learning in science and religion classes.”
Berry farm gets compost
Rosby’s Resource Recycling will pick up the compostable receptacles twice a week and transport them to its compost facility. The compost will be used at the Brooklyn Heights-based Rosby Co.’s 16-acre berry farm, where red raspberries are grown. In addition to the berry farm and resource recycling operation, Rosby Cos. include a greenhouse and full-service garden center.
Julianna Perez, 13, an eighth-grade student at St. Paul, said it is exciting to be a part of a program that promotes caring for the environment.
“We have to protect the environment, because if we don’t, there could be famine all over,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of compostable trays or a school taking waste from lunch and doing something so positive with it. I think it’s really great!”
The waste management authority launched its own recycling program for leftover food and other organic waste in 2010. That program attracted numerous local participants, including Crave restaurant in Akron, the Akron Zoo, Summa St. Thomas Hospital, Sterling Jewelers and St. Hilary parish in Fairlawn, the Boy Scouts’ Camp Manatoc in Boston Township, Courtyard by Marriott in Stow, Hale Farm and Village in Bath Township, St. Mary Catholic Church in Hudson, Twinsburg High School and Wilcox Primary in Twinsburg and Totally Cooked Catering in Cuyahoga Falls.
For more information about the solid-waste agency, visit www.saswma.org. More information about Rosby’s can be found at www.rosbycompanies.com.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org