Maryland Department of the Environment brings its “Waste-Free Lunch Challenge” to Churchville Elementary School in Harford County

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Jay Apperson

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Maryland Department of the Environment brings its “Waste-Free Lunch Challenge” to Churchville Elementary School in Harford County

Secretary Grumbles joins students for a waste-free lunch

Baltimore, MD (April 20, 2016) – Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles had lunch with students at Churchville Elementary School in Harford County today to celebrate Earth Week and participate in the Department’s “Waste-Free Lunch Challenge.”  The Waste-Free Challenge encourages students to avoid packing lunches that create waste that cannot be recycled or composted. The Secretary, along with employees from the Department, discussed the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – and how the students and parents can implement these practices when preparing their lunch.

At the end of the lunch Valerie Schafer’s second-graders claimed victory in the Challenge, collecting only .7 ounces of trash and diverting the rest through recycling and composting. More than 380 students, grades first through fifth participated in the event. Overall, Churchville Elementary was able to reduce its trash by 95 percent from trash measured on a normal school day earlier in the month.

Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said, “The students, faculty and staff at Churchville Elementary are leaders in source reduction in Maryland. Statewide, there is an estimated 36 years of remaining municipal landfill capacity at current disposal rates. Eliminating inefficient and harmful disposal of waste into landfills is possible through source reduction by avoiding waste before it occurs. Source reduction in addition to increasing our composting and recycling habits will help to ensure that the waste generated in the State is reused and not just disposed of in a way that threatens our health and the environment. I commend Harford County Public Schools for their commitment to sustainability and protecting Maryland’s environment.”

Maryland has made significant progress in recycling during the past two decades and currently recycles at rates well exceeding the national average. However, Marylanders continue to dispose of more than half of all waste they generate. The majority of this waste is disposed in landfills. Waste-free solutions are achieved through source reduction – changing the way products are designed and consumed to prevent waste before it occurs, and reuse – finding ways to use products again for their original purpose. Materials that cannot be reduced or reused can be recycled or composted into useful products, and remaining waste can be captured for energy recovery. The benefits of waste-free actions include a reduction of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, conservation of energy and natural resources, creation of green jobs and protection of public health and the environment.

Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) is a leader in sustainability. Recognized by the Green Schools program for their pilot organics recycling program last year, the pilot composting program is currently in its fifth year of operation and has expanded to 12 school sites. The school system partners with a local Harford County business, Veteran Compost, to implement their pilot organics recycling program. After collection, the materials are processed into a rich, renewable compost that is ready for sale to farmers, landscapers, and homeowners. The schools have even used the compost to fertilize some of their sports fields. To date, the program has diverted an estimated 160,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill. This is equivalent to 336,000 pounds of Co2 emissions avoided in the disposal process.

Andrew Cassilly, Resource Conservation Manager for HCPS said, “We are proud to be leaders in the commercial composting process. This program provides students with a real life example of the benefits of organic recycling of food scraps and an excellent connection to their curriculum.”

Superintendent Barbara Canavan supports and encourages these efforts. “It is important to teach students at a young age the importance of the three R’s and that they need to be responsible citizens of the environment. The efforts made at Churchville Elementary illustrate that our students and school system are committed to ensuring the future of our environment.”

In 1987, MDE was created to protect and restore the environment for the health and well-being of all Marylanders. MDE’s duties also encompass enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, long-term planning and research. MDE provides technical assistance to Maryland industry and communities for pollution and growth issues and environmental emergencies.

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