New Rochelle's Tax Dollars are Still Thrown in the Garbage

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These are my comments shared at the Board of Education Meeting on Dec 18th, 2012

Dear Board,

I have been before you many times, raising the issue of the lack of recycling in the schools. From spring of 2011 to June of 2012 I put in endless of hours to show how every New Rochelle school can achieve a 90% reduction in garbage. 4 New Rochelle schools joined the effort in Sept 2011, with 3 more saying they would join, once B&G would take over the pick up of the unusual materials. Every single school, driven by a dedicated parent, has reported a 90% reduction and had the kids enthusiastically participate in the process, taking valuable social, environmental and educational lessons home.

However from the very beginning there was little support from B&G, nor from the central administration. We asked numerous times for a custodial protocol to put in place, for the organization of material flow, and for the educational integration of the program into the school. Only three schools took ownership of the program and integrated it into normal routine.

In June of 2012, Assistant Superintendent Mr Quinn put out a memo requiring all schools to finally follow the NY State Source Separation law. This law is in effect since 1988 and New Rochelle schools have been fined numerous times for not following it.

John Gallagher was put in charge of implementing this recycling requirement.
I have now been to many of the schools to see what has happened since June.

And I am here to report, that sadly very little has happened.

Davis still does not do any recycling at all.

Ward, who had done the full program successfully for more then a year, is back to 23 garbage bags per lunch, and has all kinds of card board in their garbage container and no commingled container. Its recycling bins are thrown behind the building.

Isaac Young was the recipient of two lovely new 2 yard containers that are now standing in the corner of the courtyard, hidden behind some other trash, unused, unmarked. Isaac Young has no commingled coming out of the building.

Trinity, one of the schools that has a taken ownership of the program, has still a lovely lovely program going on in the lunchroom, but every single resource that the kids sort out so carefully, is brought by the custodian out and thrown in the garbage. Not even the kitchen commingled makes it into the dedicated container.

ALMS is the shining star with all of its commingled actually making it into the recycling container, and most of its paper as well. It is the school that has taken full ownership of the program and is doing really well.

These are just the schools I had time to visit.

To remind you, garbage costs a lot of money. The budget outlines $120,000 tipping fee, that is only about 1/4 of the actually cost levied on taxpayers for tipping fee, because the other 340,000 are coming out of Westchester County Tax, that is already close to 1/2 million dollars for JUST New Rochelle school garbage.
Then there is plastic bags, budget item of 287,000, vehicle use, depreciation, fuel etc conservative guess of 35,000. Labor of two workers 120,000, School Yard rental 85,000, fines 10,000.

(please see my other blog entry for the detailed report on where the above figures come from)

A total of $ 637,000.00 of tax money is spent on JUST New Rochelle school garbage. And I have shown you that 90% of all materials that come out of the buildings are fully recyclable, which means they do not cost money to tip and even generate substantial amount of money. (around $340,000.00 by my calculations, below is the basis for that)

I brought this program now to 4 other school districts. Every school district is reporting a 90% reduction in garbage. Every school in these districts has a supportive and effective Buildings and Grounds Director and custodial staff that "get it". They follow the guidelines, support the students efforts and go the extra mile to make sure that recyclables do not end up in the trash.

However, in New Rochelle recycling just doesn't want to work. In spite of Mr Quinn's explicit directions, in spite of the law.

What is the districts policy on employees that do not follow the law, do not follow Mr Quinn's directions, create substantial cost and undermine the efforts of the students on a DAILY basis?

Basis for "Loss of revenue" calculation

The school district generates approx. 4650 tons of garbage every year. I have proven that 90% of that material is either paper or packaging material. Both fully recyclable if sorted out.
Let's say the 90% in VOLUME reduction we have consistently seen in every participating school translates into a 70% of WEIGHT reduction. That means from the 4650 tons of garbage, 3255 tons are recyclable materials.
To be really conservative, let half of that be paper.
1627 tons of paper, separated into cardboard or Newsprint category, will sell at the MRF for around $130,200.00
1000 tons of plastics. Say 80% of that is Pet 3-7 plastics, and 20% Pet 1-2. That plastic will sell for $208,000.00
The rest is milk cartons, juice pouches, soft plastics and Styrofoam, which is not disposed of through the MRF, however still fully recyclable and tipped for free.
Total Revenue lost $338,200.00

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