By Dustin Luca
---- — An Andover school traded its cafeteria trash cans for sets of recycling and composting stations this week as part of an ongoing effort to get students town-wide to think green.
After a similar effort saw success at Andover High School this past year, the school is now using sets of bins aimed at sorting trash into several categories, including recyclable plastic, compostables and liquids.
The effort was started by Andover High School alumnus Hannah Krieger and continued by the school’s Environmental Club following her departure. Last week, the club passed the recycling torch on to a green team at Wood Hill Middle School in a school-wide assembly.
“One of our big mottos is ‘take care of one another,’ but it isn’t just taking care of one another. It’s taking care of the Earth, taking care of what’s around us,” Wood Hill Principal Patrick Bucco said. “This is kind of an offshoot of that.”
The school’s health classes will set up a rotation for students to man the individual stations and ensure that kids are sorting their trash like they should be, according to Dina Roumeliotis, Environmental Club member and public relations intern for Sustainable Andover.
The transition from using a single barrel for trash to sorting won’t be seamless, but the school is ready to make the effort, according to 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.”
The end-goal of the sorting effort is to reduce how much trash the town passes on to incinerators. While the town pays to have its trash burned by the pound, removing compostables, liquids and more from that can reduce what the town pays for the service.
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.
“If we get all 10 schools, it actually ends up being a noticeable line item in the budget,” Fink said. “Then you get all the students doing it.”
That can lead to greater things at home, according to Fink.
“The thing that means the most to me, and this has happened three or four times, is a parent comes to me and says their kid has gotten them into composting at home because of what they’ve learned,” he said.
High Plain Elementary School is being targeted as the focus for the next effort. Because the school is part of the same building as Wood Hill Middle School, shifting the program to elementary school 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.”
The effort is also conducive of the school district’s emphasis of project-based learning, where the education process leaves the pages of a textbook and becomes more involved, according to Fink.
For the high school students involved, moving the effort to younger hands “was the best kind of education,” Fink said. “This wasn’t writing a report somewhere and handing it into the teacher. This is changing how the town does composting. This is changing how the town actually works.”