Frequently Asked Questions
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How do schools receive funding?
Funding is provided through grant programs or Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs). Maryland Senate Bill 124 was signed April 2022 and went into effect July 1, 2022. SB124 will provide $250,000 annually through 2027 for funding public schools to begin their waste diversion programs.
Data from existing programs shows that after the initial cost of the bins, coolers, bin liners, and other materials, the cost of organic waste pick-up eventually becomes balances out with the cost of reduced trash pick-up.
Are there resources for educating students and staff about food diversion?
The LOOL Toolkit provides a variety of resources for educators and students on the subjects of composting and waste diversion!
The most common course of action within current diversion schools is teaching a small group of students who are willing to take the initiative to teach others. These students act as monitors during their lunches to show their peers how to sort properly and to answer any question. Other courses of action include making videos for morning announcements, posters showing examples of the waste for each type of bin, and ambassador training. As more schools become involved, Mountainside Education and Enrichment and ambassadors will host periodic meetings for staff and students to demonstrate proper waste diversion.
How do schools increase student morale?
Creating and fostering student ownership of the LOOL program is key to maintaining student buy-in. Additionally, student involvement can be encouraged and increased through climate education, sharing the quantitative impacts of food diversion, and through staff and administrator engagement with green teams.
Where does the diverted waste go?
Any food from share tables that is left over can be taken to local food banks - many schools often end up supplying hundreds of fresh fruits and vegetables, and bottled milks weekly!
Organic food waste will be picked up by a local composting program (varies depending on county). The collection of organic waste is similar to weekly trash and recycling pick up, but can be adjusted based on the volume of organic waste being diverted. Composting companies then begin the process of sorting, shredding, and composting. The compost is then distributed to local farms, individuals who purchase the compost, or it is used on the companies’ own properties.
Are there rodent and pest issues?
Contrary to concerns, there are less rodent and pest issues when food diversion programs are implemented. Organic food waste ends up in its own sealed bin which is odor-free, rather than mixing with trash and increasing the food smell. Currently all schools that have food diversion programs have not experienced any pest issues.
Where do we put the bins?
The bins can be placed alongside any preexisting trash and recycling bins. We recommend starting with two or three bins and increasing the amount if needed.
The larger collection bin should be outside and accessible 24/7 for the composting companies to collect the organic waste. Schools typically place food waste bin alongside their trash and recycling receptacles.
How do we receive more compostable bags? What if a bin gets damaged?
Compostable bags used for the bins can be purchased through the company providing collection service to the school. If a bin gets damaged, reach out to your school's composting company for a replacement.
Where do we put the cafeteria compost at the end of the day?
The school will have a large organic waste receptacle outside. The smaller organic waste bins used inside can be dumped into here.
What is allowed on the share tables?
Any packaged food that is unopened, and any loose fruits that are uneaten.
How has COVID-19 impacted the efforts?
Initially, COVID-19 drastically decreased the amount of schools involved in food diversion due to sanitation concerns. There were additional concerns of adding onto the existing workload of building services staff. While there is a small amount of extra work to implement the program, it is a virtually seamless transition due to students leading the initiative. After the program has been in place for a few weeks, it simply becomes a lifestyle change!