school building within Davis School District in Farmington, Utah

Davis School District, in Farmington, Utah, is the second largest school district in the state. We support 72,500 students and approximately 8,000 staff members. In our area, there are three regularly used options for waste disposal: very limited recycling with no glass and very few plastics (largely paper products), sending items to a local burn plant or sending items to a landfill.

There are several issues with these options. The local burn plant does not capture most of the energy created from burning trash. In addition, the amount of CO2, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants released into the atmosphere makes this a very unhealthy option. Landfills are estimated to create one-third of the man-made methane in our atmosphere and risk polluting land and groundwater.

These facts resulted in us taking a closer look at exactly what we were throwing away, what would be the best use of the materials after leaving our facilities, and how we could come up with a better disposal solution.

Making Progress

We knew some departments — such as maintenance, curriculum, distribution and information technology — already had responsible methods for reusing or disposing of equipment. Remnant lumber, piping, paint and other building materials are saved and used for smaller projects throughout our district. Unusable metals are taken to recycling facilities. School materials such as books and furniture are offered to other locations. And equipment and machinery are used to repair other items that are still in the fleet.

We found that we could do a better job supporting paper recycling by making recycling receptacles easily accessible, and by reinforcing the value of recycling to students and staff. In addition, our school district is reducing paper waste by focusing on technology that will make us less dependent on paper products.

One example of this with staff members is the use of programs such as Microsoft Teams where we have been able to eliminate paper meeting agendas, paper meeting minutes and sharing physical documents. At the school level, paper is being replaced with online resources.

We found that a surprising amount of our disposal is food waste, specifically food waste from our school cafeterias. Our nation’s child nutrition program requires that each meal is prepared very specifically to meet the nutrition requirements that regulate calories, sodium, protein and grains. This means reducing food waste at the source is not an option.

To help combat this problem our nutrition services department, with the support of our local health department, introduced the food share program. This program enables children to return food they have not opened to the sharing table.

The food must be packaged in a way that allows it to be sanitized, such as packaged sandwiches and milk or fruits that can be thoroughly cleaned. Children that are still hungry or may want to take food home can take whatever they want from the sharing table.
Although helpful, this program didn’t eliminate the food waste problem.

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Truly Sustainable Method To Managing Waste