Each month at Summit High School, one ton of food waste that would otherwise enter the waste stream is composted, saving money and benefitting the environment. Funded by a grant from the Summit Area Public Foundation (SAPF), the composting program, which began last September, is the first of its kind in New Jersey.
The Summit Recycling Advisory Committee (RAC), a volunteer committee that advises Common Council on how to increase recycling in Summit, partnered with the Board of Education to apply for the SAPF grant after learning about similar composting efforts in Merck’s cafeterias in Summit. Because the high school kitchen staff prepares over 1000 meals a day for the high school and elementary schools, the high school was the natural choice for location.
Any organic material can be collected for composting, including waste generated during the preparation of food, such as vegetable peels and paper wrappings, and food that cannot be served. Unlike home composting, anything that is not glass, plastic or metal can be composted, even meat and dairy products. Although currently limited to material generated in the kitchen, the goal for the future is to expand the program to allow students to compost their food waste in the cafeteria as well.
The compostable food waste is picked up weekly by Organic Diversion and is trucked to a licensed composting facility in Delaware where the food waste is turned into compost and fertilizer. One of the RAC goals is to demonstrate the feasibility and cost effectiveness of a composting program so that other Summit institutions and businesses will compost their food waste.
The Summit School Business Administrator, Louis J. Pepe, stated, “we are excited to be a recognized leader in local sustainability by implementing an efficient and cost-effective organics recycling program! The program has allowed Summit High School to reduce its waste, which decreases labor and disposal costs at the school. At a time when budgets are strained amidst limited resources, it is great to share in such a worthwhile program that delivers clear savings while improving the environment.”