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Recycling food saves money at Federal Way schools

A Federal Way school that recently joined the ranks of the food recycling program is Saghalie Middle School. For Saghalie, the experience of food recycling has been rewarding — and has saved money.  - Greg Allmain, The Mirror
A Federal Way school that recently joined the ranks of the food recycling program is Saghalie Middle School. For Saghalie, the experience of food recycling has been rewarding — and has saved money.
— image credit: Greg Allmain, The Mirror

In a world where everyone is looking to save money, the Federal Way School District has found savings through a simple food recycling program.

“We can see about $2,000 in savings per school,” said Ed Novak, conservation resource manager for Federal Way schools. “Depending on the size of the school, we can see up to $4,000 a year in savings for some schools.”

According to the City of Federal Way website, food recycling helps consumers save money in two ways. With more than 30 percent of garbage coming from “food scraps and compostable paper,” food recycling eliminates that volume from consumers’ garbage output.

With a smaller output of garbage, consumers can then move to smaller garbage cans, thus reducing their costs. Another cost-saving benefit, also according to the city, is that food recycling “extends the useful life” of the local landfill, meaning lower disposal fees for consumers.

Recyclable food items include:

• Spoiled fruits and vegetables and trimmings

• Coffee grounds and filters

• Bread, pasta, grains

• Eggshells and nut shells

• Cheese, meat, fish, poultry and bones

• Paper towels and napkins

• Greasy pizza delivery boxes and uncoated paper plates

What does food recycling really do? The answer is pretty straightforward, says Dale Alekel, program manager for the King County Green Schools Program.

Food scraps and other organic materials such as grass, leaves, twigs, soiled papers, napkins and paper towels can all be composted and broken down, turned into a soil amendment and used to nourish soil, Alekel said. Alekel also said King County has more than 100 schools participating in food recycling programs.

A Federal Way school that recently joined the ranks of the food recycling program is Saghalie Middle School. For Saghalie, the experience of food recycling has been rewarding — and has saved money.

With a little help and guidance, students at Saghalie are finding the idea of recycling their food to be a good one, said chief custodian Margarita Jacobson. She said the program started about two months ago.

“We have helpers who stand at stations who guide the kids with where they need to put the food,” she said. “They like it, they’re like ‘Oh yeah! I can do this.’ It’s fun for the kids.”

The food recycling program has been so successful at Saghalie, its effect has been “tremendous,” Jacobson said. “Because we didn’t have so much garbage, we went for a month without (Waste Management) picking it up.”

Outside of Saghalie, other Federal Way schools participating in food recycling are Green Gables, Twin Lakes, Camelot and Star Lake elementary schools. More schools will be added, Novak said.

Both Jacobson and Novak believe the reason the program has worked so well to this point is because of support from the city.

“The City of Federal Way is a strong sponsor and supporter of the program,” Novak said. “They provide the training to staff and students, and they provide the necessary containers.”

Jacobson said the city came to Saghalie during lunch hour and held an impromptu assembly to teach students about food recycling. She feels this program is worthwhile for anyone to try — be it at home, the office or school.

“It’s a really great program,” she said. “I hope everybody does it. It’s a good thing, and it helps the environment, and you save a lot of garbage.”

Learn more

For more information on how to begin food scrap recycling, visit www.cityoffederalway.com/recycling.

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