City ends food recycling at Plano schools

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on May 26, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 26 at 5:52 PM

PLANO — Recycling. It's a message we want our kids to get. So why are Plano schools stopping their cafeteria recycling program?

The City of Plano sent a letter to the Plano ISD informing the schools that the city would not longer pick up its organic trash, including all the discarded food from cafeterias.

That food had been turned into compost, but not any more.

The rich compost, "black gold," is comprised of ground-up landscaping and food. It makes great mulch for flower beds.

Homeowners want it, so the City of Plano sells it.

But the city wants it to be pure, without contaminants — especially plastics.

"It only takes a few cartons of contamination to ruin an entire truckload of organics," said Chris Day, Plano's commercial recycling supervisor.

The problem: students at dozens of schools participating in the program apparently were not separating the trash properly, tossing plastic forks and spoons into the bins along with the food.

"The separation at lunch is a very difficult task. It was not mandatory," Day said. "So it was impossible to provide oversight at every individual school to avoid contamination."

Wendel Withrow, chairman of the Dallas Sierra Club, called Plano's decision a step backwards. "A lot of material that could be saved that's now being dumped in the landfill, which costs the City of Plano and the taxpayers of Plano more money," he said.

But Plano recycling officials say the school district's recycled food was winding up in the landfill anyway. "If, in fact, our compost loads are being diverted to the landfill due to high contamination, the program is certainly not servicing it's primary purpose," Day said.

Plano ISD officials provided a written statement, calling the 10-year-old program "a very ambitious undertaking." They said organic recycling was "contingent upon a partnership with the city that has ended."

Plano officials say their customers who are buying the compost mulch will be happier with a final product that's plastic-free.

And even without the food recycling, the Plano ISD says it is still recycling nearly half of all the garbage they produce.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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