Some 1,600 students pass through Chanhassen High School's cafeteria every school day. And every day, trash piled up — more than 350 pounds.
"When we first went into Chanhassen High School," says Minnesota GreenCorps member Taylor Hays, "it was a little intimidating simply because of its size. We weren't sure what to expect, but we thought we'd start out small — a few extra recycling bins..."
But instead, the principal, Tim Dorway, jumped completely on board, saying, "Let's do it all — the whole school! Everything!"
So Taylor partnered with students and school staff to jump in feet first — milk carton recycling, organics collection, switching to reusable silverware from plastic disposables.
"The students have been really positive and willing to learn the new program, and while no one's perfect, we're looking for progress and participation, not perfection. It's been great to see how much students really care about sorting their waste properly.
Before and after
- Average daily trash from lunch room: 355 pounds (missing one day due to no school).
- Weekly trash from lunch room: 1,420 pounds.
- Average daily trash from lunch room: 31.7 pounds.
- Weekly trash from lunch room: 158 pounds.
- Average daily diversion from landfill: 300 pounds.
- Weekly diversion from landfill: 1,501.7 pounds.
- Average daily diversion from landfill: 90.5 percent.
As trash collection service is subject to sales tax of 17% in Minnesota, while organics and recycling is collected tax-free, Chanhassen High School is seeing a savings right away as 90% of their waste is now being diverted and collected tax-free.
Additionally, Chanhassen High School is seeing a smaller trash dumpster and fewer trash pick-ups, which also saves them money on their monthly waste bill.
The best news, however, is that all of that waste with still so much potential is now being reused and recycled. This means less waste ending up in the landfill, which contributes to a cleaner neighborhood and a cleaner future for everyone.
Minnesota GreenCorps is an AmeriCorps program, coordinated by the MPCA, which places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to spend 11 months addressing environmental issues. MPCA places up to 28 full-time Minnesota GreenCorps members with local governments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions statewide to serve on projects in the areas of:
- Energy conservation
- Waste prevention and recycling
- Living green outreach (includes local foods and air quality improvement/active transportation)
- Green infrastructure(includes stormwater management and urban forestry)