The AHS Slash the Trash team continues to reduce cafeteria waste and encourage students to adopt low-waste habits. 

Recent results of the Slash the Trash team’s leadership include:

  • Eliminating single-use ketchup packs from the cafeteria
  • Replacing single-use lunch containers with compostable alternatives
  • Replacing plastic gloves with compostable alternatives

It is an ongoing challenge to convince students to change their waste habits. In a school where the majority of the 1,600 students participate in the free lunch program, cafeteria waste is significant.

The volunteer team of 10 students staffs a cafeteria sorting station to guide compost, recycling and trash to the proper receptacles and organizes the school’s ‘Share Table’ to reduce food waste.

The young environmental advocates have made significant progress in the past year. Most notably:

Elimination of single-use ketchup and ranch dressing packs

Partnering closely with Food Services, the team successfully advocated for condiment pumps to replace the wasteful single-use plastic packs. Previously, the cafeteria used hundreds of ketchup packs daily, with students often taking large handfuls which were more than they needed. Ketchup packs were the #1 contaminant found in the school’s compost bins and a headache to remove. The newly installed pumps allow students to take only what they need, thereby reducing food waste, costs, compost contamination and single-use plastic waste.

Use of Compostable Food Containers

Over the course of the last year, single-use plastic and cardboard food containers such as paper baskets, fruit cups and soup containers have been replaced with compostable alternatives. Since not all materials are truly compostable, the team worked with vendor Black Earth Compost to make sure that the new compostable containers are certified and accepted.

Replacement of plastic gloves with compostable gloves

A small, but impactful change, the gloves the students use to sort trash, recycling and compost are now compostable, replacing the previously used plastic gloves. 

Educating the Broader Community

Slash the Trash leaders Sophie, Sadie, and Walter are passionate about their work and love talking to like-minded students and community members about their accomplishments. 

Recently, the student leaders attended the Mass. Environmental Education Society (MEES) conference where they presented their accomplishments to educators, government officials and environmental non-profits. At the conference they also encouraged attendees to write postcards to support environmental bills being considered in the current legislative session. 

The group’s work has also garnered attention from elementary school parents who recently invited them to present their accomplishments and advocacy efforts to Stratton School 5th graders. The group did a postcard activity with students, encouraging support for environmental bills S260, S2097, H3164 and H3232

What’s Next?

Tireless leaders, the team has a number of ideas to explore this year, including a student survey of cafeteria and waste disposal habits and conversion to reusable cafeteria trays, among other thoughts.

Do you know of an AHS student interested in joining the Slash the Trash team? They can sign up here.

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