Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Falmouth schools ramp up efforts to compost food waste

Students at all seven public schools in Falmouth will be composting by the end of this school year.

The district is joining other schools across the region that have launched efforts to keep tons of food waste out of the trash, opting instead to turn scraps into soil. Falmouth officials said they believe they're the first community across the Cape region to take a district-wide approach to composting.

"I'm just really excited because it a lot of times we tell the kids climate change is happening, and it's this big scary thing that is really a beast,” said Carmela Mayeski, who helped launch the program. “And to have something concrete and fairly simple that the kids can do every day that really does make a big difference is pretty amazing.”

Three schools — Lawrence, Falmouth High School and Teaticket — will begin composting this month in honor of Earth Day, joining Mullen Hall and Morse Pond whose programs have already begun. The remaining two schools — in North and East Falmouth — will begin in May. At that point, the entire district will be composting.

To help students along, staff or volunteers stand will behind the compost bins to show them what goes where. There are also posters that explain students should separate items like chicken bones from apple cores from the stickers that come on fruits and vegetables.

At every school, there's a poster for the kids to put stickers on. Because the stickers that are on produce are plastic and they're not compostable,” Mayeski said. "So to encourage the kids to take those off, we have places for them to put them up.”

Superintendent Lori Duerr said she was encouraged to see how quickly students adapted to composting during a pilot program. One day she asked kindergarteners to teach her how to compost.

“I said, ‘I’ve never composted before.’ Although I have, I'm a true believer here,” she said. “But I said, ‘You're going to have to teach me. So when we take our in our trays up, what are we going to do?’ And they were all excited about being able to teach the superintendent how to compost.”   

Black Earth is in charge of collecting and transporting the food waste to an off-Cape site where the composting process can begin.

This year, at Lawrence and Mullen Hall alone, Mayeski said they’ve prevented 26 tons of food waste from ended up in the trash stream.

“That adds up to about 16.9 metric tons of carbon emissions that are being avoided,” she said.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.