When you hear phrases like “think green” or “environmental stewardship,” recycling is likely one of the first things that comes to mind. With all of the pseudo-science and myths out there, you might be confused on how to recycle and even the definition of recycling.
The Environmental Research & Education Foundation’s School Cafeteria Discards Assessment Project (SCrAP) is a program that aims to understand how waste is generated and managed in K – 12 cafeterias across the United States.
Due to their interests in reducing or better managing waste, the School Nutrition Foundation and Keep America Beautiful joined the program as collaborative partners. With the help of these partners, SCrAP has reached 93 schools across 38 states, representing over 82,000 students.
While participation offers benefits to schools, such as educational resources and food waste and cost reductions, data gathered through the program will benefit a wide-range of organizations. Results from this program will be incorporated into a larger project from EREF’s Data & Policy Program investigating waste management practices in each waste sector: institutional (schools, hospitals), commercial (retail stores) and residential. Conclusions drawn from this study will inform organizations across various industries, including school boards, on best practices for managing waste.
SCrAP participants were asked to join at the purple level – complete a questionnaire only – or at the blue or golds levels – complete the questionnaire and conduct cafeteria waste audits 3 – 5 or 6 – 10 times, respectively. Of the 93 schools that joined SCrAP, 91% have a recycling program, 16% have backyard or garden composting and 9% send their organics to a commercial composter.
Schools that elected to perform audits sorted lunch waste into five categories: food waste, liquids, recycling, other/landfill and unopened/untouched food and drinks. These sorts educated students about waste management, and presented opportunities for discussion on the importance of more sustainably managing our waste.
EREF staff compiled the data provided by the schools, finding that the weight of the lunch waste totaled nearly 13,000 lbs! The chart below depicts the breakdown of the discarded material into the five categories.
Blue or gold level schools received Snapshot Reports that include links to educational resources, a comparison of each school to other schools at the state and national level and a list of opportunities to increase waste sustainability.
- The largest component was organic waste at 75%. This consists of food waste, beverage waste, and unopened/untouched food.
- Milk accounted for 65% of unopened food by weight.
- The national average of waste generated per student for schools was 43.3 lbs/student in a school year.
Interested in participating? The School Cafeteria Discards Assessment Project continues through the 2017-2018 school year. For additional program information or to register, please click here or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for more results from the program? Click here for an infographic outlining some of the key results!
Thank you to our sponsors who have helped make this project possible:
Raleigh, NC (April 27, 2017) – The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF) are conducting a joint research project to quantify and address the issue of needlestick injuries at Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in the United States and Canada.
Raleigh, NC (April 14, 2017) – The Environmental Research & Education Foundation’s (EREF) Annual Charitable Auction remains one of the highlights of WasteExpo, held May 8 – 11, 2017 in New Orleans. The exciting two-day event, which has raised $17 million since it began in 1994, consists of the Live and Silent Auctions featuring generous donations from waste industry organizations and provides opportunities to increase exposure at WasteExpo. Last year, the Auction raised over $1.6 million to support EREF’s mission to fund and direct scientific research and educational initiatives.
Raleigh, NC (February 28, 2017) – The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is one of the largest sources of solid waste research funding in the U.S., allocating approximately $1 million annually in research grants and graduate level scholarships.
Thus far, over 50 students have been EREF scholars, many of whom are now in key academic and professional positions across the U.S. EREF is pleased to announce that scholarship applications for the 2017-2018 academic year are now available. The application deadline is May 3, 2017 at 5:00 pm (eastern).
Raleigh, NC (January 19, 2017) – The Board of Directors of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) are pleased to announce the award of 3 new research grants in 2016. Research conducted through these grants aligns with EREF’s mission to advance sustainable solid waste management practices.
The Board of Directors of the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF) is pleased to announce the creation of a scholarship for Master’s students, which will be funded by donations from the Garbageman’s Invitational, an industry golf tournament and social event.
EREF Scholarships recognize graduate students pursuing excellence in solid waste management research and education. Recipients are chosen based on credentials and potential contributions to the solid waste industry and its scientific community.
More information on EREF’s scholarships, as well as a link to the scholarship application, can be found at https://erefdn.org. The deadline for the 2016-17 academic year is May 4, 2016 at 5:00 pm (eastern).