Pilot program reduces trash in Austin schools




Posted on April 19, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 21 at 11:43 PM

Four Austin Independent School District schools are piloting a program to reduce trash.  The focus in on compost materials.

The cafeteria at Menchaca Elementary School runs like a machine.  Classes come and go at three-minute intervals.  But there's a slight difference on the way out the door.

"It's just a matter of putting something in a different trash can," said Principal John Rocha.

That different trash can is compost pile for food and some paper products. Each week, they collect about 1,000 pounds worth of waste that now goes into the compost pile.

"In the schools now, they don't have a lot of cans and bottles and normal recycling elements. So this gives the school a unique way to recycle and divert as much as possible from the landfill," said Rick Fraumann, of Texas Disposal Systems.

Since this pilot program started in February, the schools put about 40 percent less garbage in landfills. Texas Disposal Systems mixes the food with wood waste from local green builders and turns it into Garden-ville, chemical-free, organic compost.

"It smells kind of stinky," said 2nd grader Jillian Ybarbo.

But it is popular with Central Texas gardeners. At school on Monday, students helped plant a tree using the Garden-Ville compost.

"It has like a different color of dirt. Dirt is kind of brown and this one, the compost is black," said 2nd grader Joseph Jordan.

The compost pilot program is currently in four AISD elementary schools and may move into every AISD elementary school.  The district and Texas Disposal say the cost for new compost system will be negated by the reduction in waste removal costs.

"I think the real beautiful thing that happens from this sort of program is that thinking becomes part of their everyday thinking for the rest of their lives," said Rocha.

And they are learning to be a part of a community.