The Saline school system actively promotes and pursues sustainable activities as ongoing efforts through the year. With the recent end of the school year one of the highlights is the successful recycling of Polystyrene foam food service trays by the Saline school district.
Rex Clary, Director of Facilities & Grounds of our Saline School District is one of the many promoters of environmental awareness in our school system. Last school year Rex along with Nicole Kent, who is the recycling champion at Pleasant Ridge Elementary, discussed recycling activities around the School system with the City of Saline Environmental Commission bringing awareness to successful efforts made by various staff, students and parents. The Saline schools have systems in place to recycle paper, card board, clear plastic, and hold various events around earth day to promote awareness. They also have formal energy saving projects like LED light fixture replacements that reduce energy use.
One area that was noted by Nicole, as an opportunity for improvement was disposal of food service trays made from Polystyrene foam. Nicole champions many of the sustainable efforts at Pleasant Ridge and noted that a solution for the trays could make a significant impact on reducing land fill volume coming from the schools.
Paper, cardboard and clear plastics are accepted in the designated recycling dumpsters at the Saline Schools. However similar to our residential curbside pickup Polystyrene foam is not collected for reuse. Polystyrene identified by the number 6 on containers, is one of the more challenging materials to recycle when it is in the form of foam. The plastic itself is considered very easy to recycle, however the bulky foam takes up considerable space for the weight it offers. Bins can fill up rapidly, it is easy to blow out of the collection containers, and is too bulky to transport efficiently making it problematic to collect.
Following collaboration with the Environmental Commission an all Michigan partnership connection was found with Dart Container Corporation located in Mason Michigan. Dart is a manufacturer of Polystyrene foam and paper products. Dart’s care program supports Polystyrene foam recycling by redirecting the material out of land fill for use in various products that include plastic picture frames, home molding, and other plastic parts such as rulers and plastic cutlery.
Rex and Nicole had established plans in place for a one week Zero Waste event at Pleasant Ridge Elementary in celebration of earth day, which was a hand’s on effort to compost food, reduce and recycle lunch packaging items. They added the foam tray recycling effort to their event which was the first time a system was established to collect and organize the foam food service trays.
From that single event Rex and his staff coordinated a more extensive ongoing collection process for this past school year. All Saline school sites using foam food service trays coordinated the collection and organized a single pick up location at Liberty School. Dart generously picks up the loads every two weeks, diverting the Polystyrene Foam from land fill.
Through the past 2015-2016 school year an estimated 2,850 lbs of foam trays were recycled. Given the light weight this saved well over 20 cubic yards of land fill space. Nicole and Rex are two of the many people who place recycling and sustainability as a priority, and the efforts have made a difference.
The Saline Schools will continue the Polystyrene foam recycling efforts into next year. In addition with Grant funds from WISD, the county is providing free recycling for one building per school district for Washtenaw County. Heritage Elementary was chosen this year and a second building next year.