A couple times a week for almost five months this year, Amanda Waddle collected paper waste from Woodvale Elementary School, weighed it on her bathroom scale, and tossed what fit into her home recycling can.
The rest she placed in public recycling containers or those belonging to her neighbors, who lent their can space to help facilitate the experiment.
The question: How much waste could the school divert from landfills by implementing a recycling program? The hypothesis: A lot.
With no district-wide recycling program serving the Lafayette Parish School System, Waddle and her fellow Woodvale mom, Catherine Schoeffler Comeaux, devised the project to show how much recyclable waste is disposed of while getting children actively engaged in practicing “The Three R’s” — reduce, reuse, recycle.
“Our goals are, in no particular order, to keep these resources out of the landfill. That is so important,” Waddle said.
“Our goal is also to teach children to look at garbage as resources,” she added. “Paper and boxes, steel cans and plastic, they’re all resources that can be used over and over again.”
Waddle and Comeaux are among residents encouraging the school system to adopt a recycling program as its waste contract is up for bidding.
The Lafayette Parish School Board in June issued a request for waste management proposals that include recycling costs for five initial school sites. Wednesday was the deadline.
Superintendent Don Aguillard said the district received proposals from its current provider, Republic Services, along with Waste Management, Pelican Waste and Progressive Waste Solutions. He also said he’s received “numerous” emails from residents who support a district-wide recycling effort.
Aguillard said the current recycling plan is to start with five sites and spread the program to “as many schools as possible,” pending a cost-efficient solution.
“We’re all on board wanting a recycling program. We just have to make sure it doesn’t financially burden the district,” Aguillard said.
Aguillard said he’ll bring a recommendation before the board at its July 13 meeting, with the body set to vote on the matter on Aug. 3.
Waddle and Comeaux said they’re optimistic.
Thousands of Lafayette residents might be wondering why they now have a recycling cart in th…
“It seems like everybody is on board. It’s moving forward,” Comeaux said.
Gretchen Vanicor, director of sustainability with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is also encouraging the school system to move forward with a recycling program.
Gretchen Vanicor recalled a marketing professor telling her years ago that recycling, energy…
She said Wednesday the university has been fine-tuning its waste collection services for the past few years and has seen significant savings by implementing a large-scale recycling program.
“We were not able to achieve those sort of efficiencies until we were able to divert those (recyclable) materials,” Vanicor said.
Through the university’s current, consolidated waste management contract, recycling services cost 11 percent less than solid waste pick-ups, Vanicor said. UL-Lafayette also pays less for solid waste collection now that almost half of all waste is diverted to the recycling stream, leading to a reduced need for solid waste pick-ups.
Since the University of Louisiana at Lafayette approved its first comprehensive sustainabili…
“If you look at recycling as an addition to handling your garbage and your solid waste, then it’s going to cost more,” Vanicor said. “It can’t be an addition. You have to reduce your solid waste services and replace that with recycling.”
During their recycling experiment, Waddle and Comeaux also collected 23 cardboard boxes and about 1,700 plastic milk bottles one school week to measure how much more of the school’s solid waste could be recycled, reducing the need for solid waste pickups.
Also among the data: They collected about 2,600 pounds of paper during the entire spring semester, with students involved in the paper collection.
The conclusion: Waddle and Comeaux estimate a recycling program at Woodvale could divert hundreds of cardboard boxes, some 90,000 plastic milk bottles and 6,000 pounds of paper — the equivalent of 51 trees — from landfills.
Should such a program be implemented throughout the district, it would also teach children about sustainable practices, Waddle said.
“We think the added bonus is that the kids are actively recycling,” she said. “They’re not just learning about it in their science class or science lesson, but they’re actively engaging in what they’ve learned about the 3 R’s. That’s a huge part of it.”