By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — Another school has traded its cafeteria trash bins for trash-sorting stations in an effort to reduce trash disposal costs.
Following the success of a similar program at Andover High School last year, students at Wood Hill Middle School are now sorting their lunch-time trash into separate containers marked for liquids, compostables, plastics and more.
The effort was started by Andover High School graduate Hannah Krieger and continued by the school’s Environmental Club following her departure. Paired with on-site composting, the school reduced its cafeteria trash output by 40 percent, according to Sustainable Andover member Candy Dann.
Once trash is hauled from the schools, the town pays by volume to have it incinerated. Officials have maintained that by reducing the volume of trash output, the town will save money.
Now, the task is in the hands of middle schoolers to drop trash output, according to Dina Roumeliotis, Environmental Club member and public relations intern for Sustainable Andover.
“We’re kind of taking it one school at a time,” she said. “We definitely want to expand the program, because we think it’d be really great to get everybody involved in composting.”
Younger children, through efforts like sorting trash in the cafeteria, “can learn life-long habits,” Roumeliotis said. “Your apple can go back into the garden.”
The school’s health classes are setting up a rotation for their students to man the stations and ensure that kids are sorting their trash as directed.
The transition from using a single plastic barrel for trash to sorting it into separate containers won’t be seamless, but the school is ready to make the effort, according to Principal Patrick Bucco.
“Seamless? Doubtful,” he said. “But we’ll get seamless eventually. We know there’s going to be some pain and some mistakes along the way, but we’ll get through that. Starting is the biggest thing.”
Steve Fink, co-chair of Sustainable Andover, said one or two schools won’t have much of an impact on how much Andover saves. But if every school participates in the effort — the end goal, he said — the savings could be drastic.
High Plain Elementary School, part of the same building as Wood Hill Middle School, is being targeted as the focus for the next effort. Shifting the program from his students to younger children will be easier, according to Bucco.
“Our students will be working with their students and staff over there, saying, ‘Here’s what worked for us,’” he said. “They’ll learn from our mistakes, just like how we’re learning from the high school.”