After realizing that 90% of the garbage generated in our schools is fully recyclable, I set out to identify just how much of our tax dollars are attached to that amount of garbage.
A quick look into the proposed budget for the upcoming school year revealed that the school district budgets
$120,000 for the mere dumping of garbage. (page 22/23)
This breaks down to 26 tons of garbage generated every single school day in 10 schools (this does not include any gardening debris)
One ton of garbage costs $26 of school district tax money, and $74 of Westchester County Tax money, again, just mere tipping the truck to dump the materials.
That means our 4615 annual tons of garbage cost an additional $341,500 of Westchester Tax money, which makes it already close to half a million dollars for just dumping the garbage.
Needless to say, just dumping the garbage is not the total cost attached to this trashy situation.
The garbage needs to be plastic bagged, picked up in heavy duty vehicles, driven by two school district employees to the nearest transfer station, dumped there, then loaded again onto even larger heavy duty vehicles and carted 46 miles up to the incinerator in Peekskill, where it is incinerated. All ashes are then landfilled in Pennsylvania.
Ok, so what do plastic bags cost?
Black, 1mm plastic bags, commonly used in the buildings are about $20.00 for 100. School district budget contains a line for $287,000 for supplies, which include plastic bags, liners (thinner plastic bags) sponges, light bulbs and other consumables. (page 26/27)
My survey had revealed that the school with 1000 students generated 22 large bags per lunch, and an additional 23 bags per night clean, which totals 8100 bags per school year. (this means about $1,600 per year on just black plastic bags for just one school, that extrapolated to 11,000 students comes to $17,600)
Next, transport of the garbage.
The district has bought and maintains two large heavy duty garbage trucks. They are driven twice per day, by two school district employees (one a commercial drivers license holder, one helper) to all schools, and then once per day to Mt Vernon to the transfer station to be dumped there. A truck holds around 32 cubic yards of garbage, the district generates around 26 per day.
I researched what other communities do when it comes to transport. So far, only New Rochelle does twice per day pickup. Yonkers schools are picked up by Yonkers city DPW only once per week, Eastchester, Tuckahoe twice per week, also by the Village DPW. Larchmont twice per week by Village DPW.
Salary of garbage truck drivers:
As far as I understand, the CDL driver and the helper are falling in the School district budget under " Outside grounds Salaries" which is a line item of $ 839,236 for 15 full time employees. That breaks down to around 56,000 per worker (obviously there are salary differences between the two but just for the sake of numbers, say each makes 1/15th of that budget item) (Page 28/29)
And then there are vehicle operating costs, this truck gets 2.6 miles per gallon of diesel, plus insurance, depreciation, oil, maintenance, let's put it at a very conservative $35,000 per year. (page 30/31)
Lastly, there are the fines imposed by Westchester County for Recycling Law violations, assessed on average 10 times per school year on the district. Each fine is 1,000.00. (no line item for this reoccurring fee)
Total expenses for the garbage generated in New Rochelle's 10 schools with 11,000 students is :
New Rochelle School district tax money
$ 294,600 plus 341,500 Westchester County tax money.
Grand total = $636,100 (again, this is just for New Rochelle school garbage, imagine that for all the different communities in Westchester and New York)
Now, why does recycling make so much dollars and cents? (and we are not even talking educational, social and environmental sense yet)
Pretty much ANY packaging material can be recycled if it is just sorted out. Schools generate 6 different packaging materials in large amounts and have the unique ability to source separate very easily, as they generate that material in a closed, and supervised environment, the cafeteria and the building at large.
By far, the most generated garbage is paper.
Second is Commingled (plastics 1-7, glass, all metals)
School lunch is served on Styrofoam trays, New Rochelle is generating around 5000 trays per school day (see attached picture, this would be two days worth of trays)
Milk cartons (rough estimate is 5000 cartons per day)
Capri Sun juice pouches (estimate 1000 per day)
Chip bags (approximate 5000 per day)
I have found recycling avenues for all of these categories, which will either provide free local disposal or even pay for the materials.
Once the above materials are sorted out of the garbage stream it only leaves food, straws, dirty napkins, ketchup pouches, yogurt pouches and very soiled soft plastic as actual trash.
All participating schools have reported a lunchroom garbage reduction of 90-95%. And a building wide reduction of 75% and better.
Getting all New Rochelle schools to adopt recycling as mandated by law, would save us tax payers significant money.
80% of reduction in tipping fee = $ 96,000 New Rochelle tax money, plus additional $273,200 Westchester County Tax money
80% reduction of plastic bags and liners = $14,080
Reduction from current 10 garbage rounds per week, to 2. (all other communities have twice per week pick up) 80% reduction, which could result in sharing services with the City of New Rochelle DPW.
No more need for district own garbage trucks due to shared services
no more need for school district yard that rents for $85,000
Projected savings to the District would be $110,000 to $400,000 depending on how to allocate the freed up services of two school district employees and the freed up vehicles.
Eastchester and Tuckahoe have immediately realized the benefits. I presented the program to them in February and within weeks they had some schools on line and have now for the begin of the new school year rolled out all of their schools.
In June 2012, John Quinn, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, and a proponent for recycling has issued a district wide recycling mandate. At this point, he is mandating all schools to implement all paper and commingled recycling, which is wonderful news and a step in the right direction. John Gallagher, Director of Facilities has been charged with the implementation of that mandate.
I will follow up this report with in-depth analysis school by school as to how this mandate is being implemented, managed, enforced and I will report on achievements.