Students in the Poway Unified School District are beginning to see new recycling carts at their lunch courts. The labels on the carts ask students to sort their breakfast and lunch leftovers into the categories of waste, recycling and now, compost. Compostables are mainly food scraps but they can include certain types of paper products, so it can be confusing at first, said Mike Perkins, custodial operations supervisor for the school district. Compost items can include paper plates, cups and napkins — even those soiled with food such as pizza boxes — and tea bags and coffee filters.

“It requires people to slow down and think a little bit,” Perkins said. “When people are in a rush they may throw trash wherever it’s convenient. We have to educate and change human behavior to be compliant and worthwhile.” Poway Unified’s new recycling program began recently at Mt. Carmel High School, Oak Valley Middle School and Park Village Elementary School, with Del Norte High School expected to join the pilot soon. The goal is to have all the schools in the district on board by Jan. 1, 2024, Perkins said.

The school district is working to comply with Senate Bill 1383, which mandates a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2013 levels by 2030, Perkins said. Jim Ambroso, general manager of EDCO Disposal Corp., said the law is intended to prevent organic material from entering the landfill, where it breaks down and creates methane gas, which contributes to climate change. “If we as the generators of these materials can separate it now and find a better use for it and not put it in the landfill then we will help to reduce the emission of the gases,” Ambroso said. “Under the law, everybody has to participate in this program — all the businesses, residents and schools — to help move organic waste away from landfills.”

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Author: Julie Gallant, San Diego Union Tribune
Image: Poway Unified School District