School tray recycling program progresses

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System is moving closer to implementing its Styrofoam food tray recycling program in its schools.

At a Newton County Board of Education work session earlier this month, Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administrative services, said the school system was planning to purchase a new cargo truck that would transport the Styrofoam lunch trays that are collected at the schools as part of the recycling program.

However, she said school system officials decided against putting the purchase of a new truck out to bid because it could cost upwards of $30,000 to $40,000. Robertson said purchasing a used one would be "best for the school system," so maintenance workers are researching the cost of such a vehicle.

Newton County BOE member Cathy Dobbs, who visited a Gwinnett County public school to see the tray recycling program at work, suggested the school system alternatively look into the costs of purchasing transportation such as an old mail truck, bus or a similar vehicle; she said Gwinnett County uses an old mail truck.

"We don't need anything beautiful - it's dirty trays," Dobbs said.

For many months, several board members, school system officials and Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful personnel have researched the idea of a Styrofoam food tray recycling program in the Newton County school system. The idea came closer to reality when similar school programs started, such as one in Gwinnett County Public Schools, and Evergreen Partnering Group determined it could service Newton County with the program.

According to a presentation from Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful Director Connie Waller and a video from Gwinnett County Public Schools, students will empty their Styrofoam food trays into a trash can and then place the emptied trays onto a rack that will keep the trays neatly stacked. The trays then will go into bags and be transported to a central location to later be picked up and recycled.

In June, the school system said the start-up costs associated with the food tray recycling program could be up to $73,000, but it could save $85,000 annually that otherwise would be used for landfill costs, trash pick up and more Dumpsters.

So far, the school system has only spent about $700 on stainless steel racks that will go on school trash cans to hold the emptied trays, according to Bill Rosser, director of maintenance at NCSS.

To coincide with the Nov. 15 America Recycles Day, November is the expected start-up month for the NCSS tray recycling program, which may be piloted at some elementary schools.

The school system is expected to give a report to the Newton County Board of Education at a meeting in October, when everything is closer to being finalized, Robertson said.

The board's work session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 14, and the regular session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 21. Meetings are held in the board room at the system's central office, located at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.

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