Esther Kang

MBMS to roll out eco-friendly lunchtime clean-up

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More than a dozen MBMS students participated in Grades of Green’s waste audit a few weeks ago, sorting through 446 pounds of lunchtime trash to reduce landfill waste by more than half. Photo courtesy of Grades of Green.

Manhattan Beach Middle School students will soon learn that dumpster diving can actually help the environment, thanks to a new initiative called Trash Free Lunch Program.

For the 2012-2013 school year, Manhattan Beach Middle School is partnering with the nonprofit Grades of Green and Waste Management to integrate the lunchtime waste-reduction program, which focuses on green education and reducing landfill waste by separating recyclables, compost and liquids from trash.

All five Manhattan Beach elementary schools have participated in the program for the past five years, but this marks the first time that middle school students are getting involved in the green initiative.

“We have a bunch of environmentally minded elementary students,” said Jan Dunbar, program manager at Grades of Green. “But they’d go to middle school and the bins wouldn’t be in place.”

Rolling out the program at a middle school obviously presents a number of new challenges, Dunbar noted.

“For middle school students, it’s not just about being informed but also participating,” she said. Parents carry the bulk of the responsibilities at an elementary schools.

Thanks to funding from Waste Management, the school’s lunch quad will soon have recycling options for cans, lunch items, trays, containers and anything else that could be properly recycled, Dunbar said.

The program will kick off later this month with a school-wide assembly, which will educate students about the significance of conserving natural resources, reducing litter and landfill waste and the importance of observing the 3 R’s — reduce, reuse and recycle.

“It’s a large beast,” Dunbar said. “We’ve really got to come at it from all directions to influence the culture of the school. We just need a few interested individuals to get the ball rolling.”

MBMS principal John Jackson noted that many students forgetfully leave their lunch trash at the tables because they get engrossed in lunchtime activities. While some students have shown initiative in recycling in the classroom, most of the efforts have been subtle.

“It hasn’t been something we’ve been emphasizing,” Jackson said. “So with Grades of Green, it’ll give us a concentrated effort on getting the word out.”

According to Grades of Green, MBUSD saved more than $10,000 with the program last year by reducing landfill waste and drastically cutting back on the number of trash pickups and trash bags.

This Saturday, Grades of Green will make a presentation at the Manhattan Beach TEDx conference “Journey to Purpose,” which will take place on MBMS campus.

As a part of the presentation, the organization will present a time-lapse video of the waste audit that took place at MBMS a few weeks ago, when more than a dozen students helped sort through 446 pounds of lunchtime trash to reduce landfill waste by more than half.

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