Press Release: Middle Schoolers Conduct School Waste Audit

Somersworth, NH – On Sept. 30, the students of Somersworth Middle School conducted a school waste audit, known as Trash On the Lawn Day (TOLD). Gwen Erley and Heather Herring from NRRA’s School Recycling Club, trained 120 seventh grade students how to identify and pull recyclables from a sampling of typical school trash.

Outfitted with recyclable gloves, each group of students was given several bags of trash which were weighed, sorted into bins, then weighed again producing volume data for a final report. When sorting was completed the students had a visual and quantifiable record of how much of their “trash” could have been diverted from the landfill. While there was not a lot of waste (an indicator of good recycling and composting), the students still saw opportunities to improve their efforts. They found five pounds of recyclable paper in several spiral bound notebooks, as well as a broken thermometer and a partially full aerosol can, leading to a discussion of hazardous waste management. The students were instructed about the impact of recycling on natural resources and landfill space.

Special guest Pete Lachapelle of Waste Management advised the students about what items belong in their single stream recycling bins and the students were able to witness a Waste Management pickup that day. Special guest Mark Richardson, from the Somersworth School Board, helped coach the students with the sorting process.

Many thanks to Math and Science Teacher Chris Asbell for his tremendous support in organizing this event. He will incorporate the results of this program into his graph and charting curricula. Special thanks also to the last group of the day for their help with the final weighing and cleanup, and a shout out to Mark Richardson’s granddaughter for manning the hose for the tarp cleanup!

Wendy Berkeley, the Farm to School Coordinator, was instrumental in securing funding for this program and provided her expertise throughout the day. Special thanks to Facilities Director Karl Ingoldsby and Custodian Michael Nichols, who provided invaluable assistance with logistics. This event would not have been possible without the support of Principal Dana Hilliard, who authorized this all-day educational event.

Thanks to funding provided by the Somersworth Farm to School program, along with a generous matching grant from New Hampshire the Beautiful, this event was free to the school.