Schools start tray recycling on Monday

COVINGTON - Newton schools will be a little greener starting Monday.

The Newton County School System, the Newton County Board of Education and Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful will kick off a foam tray recycling program on Monday. With America Recycles Day falling on Saturday, the school system wanted to plan something around that day.

"We're trying to lessen our carbon footprint and teach our students to be better citizens," said school board member Cathy Dobbs.

Starting Monday, students at all 13 of Newton County's elementary schools will participate in the program. They will empty their trays into the trash can, then neatly stack them into a pile. That pile will be put into a trash bag, which can hold about 500 trays, and set aside. A truck, which the school system purchased for $10,000, is expected to make daily pickups at the schools and deliver them to Gwinnett County twice a week for recycling; that process may change later.

Volunteers and school staff will help the students empty and stack their trays.

"All of the custodians are excited," said Connie Waller, KCNB director. "Everyone is ready for it. ... It's a win-win situation for everybody."

The initial start-up costs are about $20,000 for the school system to purchase the truck and racks and pay a processing fee, but officials said the new program could save at least $85,000 annually for what would otherwise be used for landfill costs, trash pick up and Dumpsters.

According to an administrative services report from NCSS, lunch participation is up an average of about 4 percent from last school year, with 253,837 meals being served in October. Breakfast participation is also a little higher, with 97,237 served in October.

School and KCNB officials think the tray recycling program will lead to other recycling opportunities. The school system already participates in paper and plastic recycling at various school levels, and in January, the system hopes to involve students at the middle and high schools with foam tray recycling.

Board members also are urging school system officials to look into ways to purchase recycled trays for students to use at breakfast and lunch.

"That way we can keep the circle going," Dobbs said.

Unfortunately, school system officials said costs of recycled trays are too high at current supply and demand levels, as well as due to hard economic times and budget cuts, but they plan to research and keep an eye on the costs and act when they can.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.