Composting and Recycling in the School Cafeterias

Recently the North Andover Public School district was awarded a highly competitive grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP). This funding has enabled our students at North Andover Middle School (NAMS) and Thomson Elementary to begin a lunchroom sorting process during the middle of April, that will continue into the future, with all 8 schools participating by the end of 2021. 

This process includes: 
  • pouring off liquids to reduce weight in the trash
  • recycling container (if applicable)
  • disposing of uneaten food waste and other compostable items in a designated bin which will be taken offsite to a nearby farm where it will decompose and become nutrient-rich compost
  • put any remaining unopened food in a container for Food Rescue to bring to a local shelter
  • throw what remains into the trash. 
These programs wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of our custodial and lunch room staff… thank you!

On average at NAMS, students and kitchen staff are saving approximately 450lbs of food waste per week….this is a significant amount of waste that would otherwise go into the trash, but instead is going to a farm and being turned into compost.

The Thomson Elementary has just started the program, but during a pilot program last year at this school, the kids were able to divert +/-90% of waste from going into the trash—about 50lbs of food waste, 8lbs of recycling, 12lbs to donate for the food rescue program, and 22lbs of liquid each day.  This left us with about 15lbs of trash per day (two bags of trash down from ten bags of trash).

Along with the help from the staff, students will read and learn about how this project will impact our school, community and world.  Students are developing green teams which will include students who have a special interest in these topics to develop their leadership skills.  This process is raising students’ environmental awareness, reducing the waste they produce, and teaching our kids the importance of doing their part to help our planet and our local environment.  The goal of this project is to significantly reduce the amount of waste generated each day.

Like all new projects, we need community support!  If you are interested in being a part of this, donating supplies or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Joanna O’Connell at  THANK YOU!