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Bugbee Elementary School Managing Waste with Food Scrap Collection

Bins at Bugbee Elementary School for different waste items. Photo courtesy of Katherine Bruns

At West Hartford’s Bugbee Elementary School, cafeteria food scrap collection is underway.

Food that has been discarded at Bugbee Elementary School in West Hartford will be composted. Photo courtesy of Katherine Bruns

By Katherine Breer Bruns, West Hartford Recycling Coordinator

West Hartford’s own Bugbee Elementary School is off to a great start with its new cafeteria food scrap collection and composting program. Bravo to all the eager K-5 students who have worked hard to learn to manage their lunch waste in a whole new way. And thank you to Bugbee Principal Kelly Brouse as well as the teachers and dedicated custodial staff for helping to make it all possible.

Before starting this program, due to COVID protocols for school lunch set-up, students threw their lunch waste into one trash barrel. Currently all school lunches are free under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and are pre-packed in brown bags. With the new food scrap collection program, students now have four containers in which to sort their scraps: liquids, food scraps, recyclables, and trash. They have learned quickly and eagerly help each other out. The students are always amazed to see how much food is diverted from the trash.

Bugbee students created signage to make it clear where waste should go. Photo courtesy of Katherine Bruns

Collected food scraps are sent to Quantum Biopower in Southington and turned into energy and compost. Food scrap disposal costs the town almost 40% less than solid waste disposal – so not only is there environmental incentive to divert food scraps, there is also financial.

Food waste comprises about 25% of Connecticut’s solid waste stream. West Hartford, as part of its varied programs to reduce trash, made it a priority to start food scrap composting programs in all of its public schools. Before COVID, four elementary schools had the program in place: Charter Oak, Duffy, Smith, and Morley school. As of this publication those programs are still on hold with plans to restart as soon as possible.

Bugbee students created signage to make it clear where waste should go. Photo courtesy of Katherine Bruns

The Department of Public Works will start the program one-by-one in the rest of the elementary schools, before moving onto the middle and high schools. If anyone is interested in helping with the roll out, volunteers are very welcome as soon as COVID protocols allow.

Please contact Recycling Coordinator Katherine Bruns ([email protected]) to let her know of your interest. She would be most grateful!

Bugbee students created signage to make it clear where waste should go. Photo courtesy of Katherine Bruns

Diverting food scraps from trash is great, but PREVENTING food waste in the first place should be the priority. When COVID protocols permit again, we will reinstate “Food Share” tables for sealed, uneaten food. Students can place good food here, rather than putting edible food into compost.

We encourage parents to talk with their children about their lunch room experience and ways to prevent food waste. And for those packing lunches from home, this is a good opportunity to have conversations with your children about how much can realistically be eaten, and pack accordingly. There is a lot of uneaten food at school lunches. The average American family of four throws away about $1.600 a year in uneaten food and about 40% of all food produced is never eaten. We have the power to start changing these numbers.

Bravo Bugbee students! Keep up the good work!

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