PoCo kids: it's your turn

Schools in PoCo, including Hazel Trembath elementary, are participating in the city’s organic waste collection program. Students Paloma Sandoval and Alex Minty show the city’s food waste collection bin. - Craig Hodge/the tri-city newS
Schools in PoCo, including Hazel Trembath elementary, are participating in the city’s organic waste collection program. Students Paloma Sandoval and Alex Minty show the city’s food waste collection bin.
— image credit: Craig Hodge/the tri-city newS

When students were first introduced to the idea of recycling at school more than two decades ago, many took the practice home with them, often educating their parents about the importance of reducing waste.

Now, the city of Port Coquitlam is hoping the same success can be achieved with composting as the municipality expands its food scrap collection program to several schools in the area.

A pilot program at Kwayhquitlum middle school found that diverting kitchen scraps reduced the overall garbage collected at the school by 75 to 80%.

Following on that success, the city has agreed to expand the program to include Kilmer, Central, Hazel Trembath and James Park elementary schools as well as Terry Fox secondary. The remaining PoCo schools are expected to be phased in over time.

Pat Safarik, a teacher at Hazel Trembath, said it will not take long for the school’s 213 students to get in the habit of composting their organic food scraps.

“I think the children will be fairly easy to teach,” she said. “We have always done recycling and we are going to keep that up. We are going to have to show them what goes in what bin.”

The city delivered its organic waste bins to the participating schools last week and the kitchen scraps will be collected during the 10-month school year based on the residential collection schedule.

Schools will be charged the same fee per bin as residents — $92 for a 360-litre container and $79 per 240 l container. While there is a cost to participating in the program, the pilot study found that schools save money by reducing the amount of garbage that is hauled to the landfill.

Glen Conley, vice-principal at Terry Fox secondary, said many students at his school are already composting at home and should not have much trouble adjusting to the new program. He said bins will be placed in the school’s common areas and home economics department as part of the first phase before a full roll-out takes place at some point in the future.

“As soon as we give them the structure and the supports, they run with it,” he said.

During Monday’s council meeting, where the report was unanimously approved, councillors said they believe the program will be successful at not just reducing trash at schools, but in students’ homes as well.

“This is a win, win, win,” said Coun. Glenn Pollock. “They are educating kids to take those habits home so they buy into diversion at home.”

Coun. Mike Forrest echoed Pollock’s response, adding that getting people in the habit of composting will go long way toward achieving the city’s waste-diversion goals. “Once you get buy-in, it becomes a part of people’s behaviour sequence,” Forrest said. “It is nice to see we have very strong participation in School District 43.”

Igor Zahynacz, Port Coquitlam’s director of engineering, said the success of the program will depend on how schools manage and promote the initiative. He acknowledged that there is a lot of work involved in organizing the food scrap collection effort at the school level and that both students and teachers will have to be committed to the project to make it work.

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