Recycling and Composting Programs
Waste in landfills is a prominent environmental problem. Landfills can contaminate local air and groundwater and create noxious odors and noises. In addition, when food waste breaks down in a landfill, it creates methane, a greenhouse gas that is many times as potent as the more commonly known greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.
Recycling (in which paper, plastic, metal, and glass are turned back into useable products) and composting (in which biodegradable waste is turned into soil) helps keep material out of the landfills and creates jobs in the community.
The Alameda Green Schools Challenge (AGSC) program was created in 2009 to create comprehensive recycling and composting programs at public (and private) schools in Alameda. That same year, AUSD received a three-year grant from the Altamont Education Advisory Board to develop the infrastructure needed for such a program, including multi-colored bins, custodial carts, lesson plans, stickers, and posters, at all 17 public schools in Alameda.
Today AUSD's Green Schools Challenge is in place in every school in the district Curricula has been developed for teachers, all elementary school children learn how to sort their trash, and all custodians are trained on waste sorting. As a result of this comprehensive program, the district as a whole has increased the amount of garbage it diverts to recycling and compost to 70%. (Some individual schools are now diverting 80% of their trash.) The current goal is for all schools to be diverting 90% of their trash by 2020.
In an effort to reduce plastic pollution, in recent years the Food and Nutrition Services Department has also eliminated "spork" packets, straws, and single-use condiments. A student letter-writing campaign was also instrumental in pushing the city government to ban plastic straws in the spring of 2018. Such straws are a major contributor to plastic pollution in landfills, waterways, and oceans. In the U.S. alone, consumers use and discard 500 million straws per day – enough to wrap around the world’s circumference 2.5 times per day.