City, schools use county grant to reduce student lunch waste

January 17, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

“We were really trying to get people to look at the waste stream differently,” said Mary Joe de Beck, resource conservation coordinator for the city of Issaquah.

In November, for national America Recycles Day, the city used a small King County grant to bring the idea of reduce, reuse and recycle to the front lines of five schools in the Issaquah School District.

Those five schools house some 2,650 students and spent several weeks gearing up for America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.

For that day, the challenge was to reduce to as close to zero as possible the amount of waste coming from school cafeterias, de Beck said. Students had to slice their own personal lunch waste to less than eight ounces, or one cup. Three schools accomplished the feat.

“The other two came pretty darn close,” de Beck added.

The three winning schools were: Issaquah Valley, Sunny Hills and Endeavour elementary schools. The “darn close” schools were Apollo and Briarwood elementary schools.

“All five schools did an amazing job in reducing their waste at lunchtime,” Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said. “We hope this challenge inspires students, parents and school staff to continue these efforts. The district is a great partner — all of its schools recycle and 95 percent collect food scraps.”

The city came and weighed the trash generated by the school cafeteria on America Recycles Day, Issaquah Valley Elementary Principal Diane Holt said. Her school’s efforts have extended beyond the city’s challenge. Over the past two school years, Issaquah Valley has reduced its annual waste by half, from roughly eight tons to four tons, Holt added. The ultimate goal is to reduce even further, eliminating the need for regular trash pick-ups, Holt said.

For America Recycles Day, students were encouraged to bring lunches in plastic or reusable containers rather than paper bags, Holt said, adding that parents were urged to give students only what they would eat and thus cut down on food waste.

Further, students made checklists of ways to reduce waste, created posters and helped with the proper sorting of waste.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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