Schools to keep recycling
Lunch tray program will go on in NCSS

COVINGTON - Although Newton County School System officials keep running into problems with their lunch tray recycling program, they plan to continue the effort at the elementary schools for now.

The elementary schools kicked off the Styrofoam tray recycling program in mid-November in an attempt to help NCSS become more green and save an annual average of $85,000 on landfill costs. The school system spent about $20,000 in start-up costs for recycling materials and a delivery truck with plans to expand the program into the middle and high schools.

Officials planned to take the collected trays - which could total thousands per day - to a recycling center in Gwinnett County that would turn the product into pellets to make more plastic items. However, the week that school officials started the program, the recycling center closed, leaving them with no place nearby to take the recyclable materials.

District officials continued to collect trays and store them in hopes of finding another program or a solution to the problem, but have since not been able to resolve the problem frugally.

Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration at NCSS, reported to the Newton County Board of Education during its monthly work session that schools are collecting trays at each elementary school and are holding them in a trailer. Once the trailer is full, Dart Containers picks up the trailer and delivers it to a recycling facility in Michigan that has equipment to break down the trays.

She said it costs the school system $1,000 each time Dart performs this service; the school system doesn't have a contract with the company to continue this on a regular basis.

"This is a short-term solution to recycling the foam trays," Robertson said. "We will continue this temporary solution for recycling foam trays with Dart as long as they will allow or until a permanent solution is found."

Officials from NCSS and Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful, which is assisting in the project, previously reported that they are looking for other companies to handle the recycling and may attempt to recycle the trays themselves as a long-term solution.

Robertson said NCSS officials have decided to delay starting a tray recycling program at the middle and high schools until a solution to the current problem has been found.

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