Local Teen Leads High School Waste Assessment Program

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LtoR: Student Lujain Al-Saleh and Environmental Specialist Jill Sarick conducting a Waste Assessment

by Maryann Ridini Spencer

Lujain Al-Saleh, a student at Ventura’s Foothill Technology High School (foothilltech.org), doesn’t like trash.  So, this month, as part of her school’s senior student community service requirement, she led a Hero project in waste assessment in the school courtyard.

Ten students dumped the contents of all the trash receptacles at the school on the lawn onto huge tarps, dividing the waste into categories such as:  1-Styrofoam (or cardboard) trays, 2-spork packets, 3-milk and juice boxes, cartons and non-recyclable beverage containers, 4-fruits and vegetables, 5-trash, 6-litter and 7- recyclable items (cereal cups, recyclable bottles, pudding cups and snack-ables).

Lujain plans to write up a “how to manual” for other students who want to do the same at their schools.

“I started getting interested in trash reduction when I attended the Ventura Charter School,” says Lujain.  “I want to get other students engaged and aware of waste and its impact on the environment.”

The assessment conducted on March 23 provides a baseline estimate for how much waste is generated at Foothill annually.  From this one assessment, it can be estimated that about 22.7 tons of trash is sent to the landfill each year from the trashcans located within the common areas in the main quad, not including trash from individual classrooms or other buildings.

Foothill Technology High School Waste Assessment Data (3/22/12)
Items Total (lbs) Average Daily Total

lbs/yr

Cardboard

6.6

26.4

Disposable Utensils/Spork Packets

0.8

3.2

Milk Cartons & Juice Boxes or Pouches

5.2

20.8

Fruits & Vegetables for Composting

15.2

60.8

Trash

24.2

96.8

Recyclable Items

11

44

Total Amount:

63

252

45360

Lujain has already set up a CRV collection and recycling program and has initiated recycling programs at school events such as track meets and other sporting events.  Her Hero project advisor, Rick Villano, was also present at the waste assessment.

When Rosie Ornelas, from the City of Ventura’s Volunteer Ventura, found out Lujain was interested in protecting the environment, she was introduced to Environmental Specialist, Jill Sarick, who provides environmental education classes and leads regular waste assessments at the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) elementary schools.

“It’s important to engage students at their level of understanding and then build upon that knowledge in a creative and entertaining style,” said Sarick.

The waste sort program is a recent collaboration between VUSD Healthy and Green Schools Partnership and the City’s Environmental Sustainability Division. In the program, already conducted at 10 of the 16 elementary schools, 5th grade students help Sarick sort through lunchtime trash to glean information that could help reduce waste.  So far, it is estimated that roughly 297 tons of material from only the lunch waste is set to the landfill each school year from these 10 schools alone.

At one school, the sorting team discovered a significant number of unopened milk cartons and uneaten apples from the school lunch program discarded in the trash.  Further analysis showed that one cause could be students’ impatience to get to recess, which immediately followed lunch.       Some schools have students go to recess first and then come in to eat lunch. In fact, a lunchtime waste assessment at another school, where recess precedes lunch, showed almost no such waste.

“These educational waste assessment programs, as well as other educational programs teach concepts of recycling, composting, water conservation, stormwater pollution prevention and other environmentally friendly “best” practices to more than 4,000 students per year,” said Sarick.

Environmental Education Programs are provided FREE to all schools in the City of Ventura. Curriculum used in the classroom presentations aligns with State curriculum guidelines for all grade levels. For more information, contact:  Jill Sarick at (805) 652-4501 or email, jsarick@cityofventura.net.

Contact:  Jill Sarick, 805-652-4501.

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