Chancellor Fariña and Commissioner Garcia Announce Zero Waste Schools Initiative

  • Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2016 Updated: Fri Apr 20, 2018

Launching in September 2016, more than 100 schools to decrease waste to landfills and reach zero waste in five years

NEW YORK – Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia today announced the launch of Zero Waste Schools, a partnership between the DOE, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions program to more effectively manage waste in school buildings by maximizing recycling and organics separation and minimizing trash.

Launching this fall, Zero Waste Schools is part of Mayor de Blasio’s One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City, as well as the larger Zero Waste Initiative, part of the administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Zero Waste Schools expands on recycling processes within schools to ensure schools are diverting all recyclable and compostable waste to reach zero waste to landfills within five years. The 100-plus district and charter schools included in the first phase of the program are located along two major DSNY collection routes that currently receive organics collections; the schools will receive free bins and signage as well as education materials. Organics collection now includes over 730 schools and is continuing to expand each year.

“As educators, we must teach our students to be environmental stewards and instill teachable moments in all that we do – in the classroom or as we recycle. This initiative will provide opportunities for conversations and lessons about protecting the environment in our classrooms and beyond,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

“Schools are essential to achieving the City’s zero waste goals. Not only will they serve as examples of what can be achieved, they are also educating our next generation of environmental stewards,” said Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, NYC Department of Sanitation. “We look forward to working with DOE to expand recycling and minimize waste in our City’s schools.”

Zero Waste Schools will engage students, staff and community members to systematically change recycling behaviors in order to reduce contamination of recyclable/compostable waste streams and expand a culture of recycling and sustainability throughout the school system. District and charter schools participating will see a significant reduction in garbage when all suitable materials are either recycled or composted via the organics collection program, and will help reduce the DOE’s environmental footprint. With the support of a dedicated outreach staff, the program will continue to expand to additional DOE schools in the future. The estimated cost of the program is $4.8 million.

This is an expansion of the DOE’s partnership with GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions Program, which develops model recycling programs and education tools at over 100 schools annually for students and staff.  Zero Waste Schools is part of the DOE’s larger sustainability initiative, focused on launching and expanding a variety of programs across the City centered on sustainability, energy conservation and waste reduction in schools.

In addition to phasing out the use of the highly pollutant No. 6 fuel in all buildings, the DOE is consistently and carefully auditing buildings to identify ways to continue to reduce energy consumption. The DOE also partners with several organizations, including working with Grow to Learn NYC to create and sustain over 550 school gardens, many of which incorporate food grown in the gardens into lunch meals served through SchoolFood’s Garden to Café initiative. Additionally, DOE has partnered with Solar One to integrate new solar panel installations in 24 buildings into student learning; Mayor de Blasio has also announced the continued expansion of solar installations in schools across the City, part of a dramatic expansion of solar energy in public buildings. Several schools are also involved in the green roof program, creating green roofs by planting vegetation as well as installing solar panels and rain catchment systems.

The DOE is making strides in ensuring students are served high-quality foods in a sustainable way by converting from using a polystyrene tray to an eco-friendly compostable plate in schools for the more than one million meals served each day. In partnership with the Urban School Food Alliance, the DOE is also in the process of sourcing compostable utensils to complement the plate.

“As the challenges of climate change continue to grow, today’s children are part of the solution,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Senior Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy and Programs. “By bringing Zero Waste to our schools, New York City is educating the next generation of environmental leaders and delivering on its OneNYC commitments.”

“Most kids learn best by doing, and launching Zero Waste in schools teaches lessons important outside the classroom,” said Nilda Mesa, Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “Schools in NYC will see solar panels, energy efficiency, sound environmental design and now zero waste in time for this generation. Schools are on the path towards being neighborhood centers of sustainability, and we all benefit.”

“As a community that survived Superstorm Sandy, we know our shared responsibility to protect the environment and stem global climate change,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “By expanding recycling efforts, Zero Waste Schools will allow us to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills, all while educating our children about how to best create a more beautiful and safe environment for generations to come.”

“Zero Waste Schools is a progressive plan that will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm. “By maximizing recycling efforts and minimizing trash in school buildings, we also teach our students to be good stewards of the environment.  I applaud this initiative and will continue to work alongside Chancellor Fariña and Commissioner Garcia to improve NYC public schools in every way possible.”

“The Zero Waste Schools program will help us reach our goal of reducing our carbon emissions 80% by 2050 citywide.  Students are our future and encouraging recycling in our schools will expose children to the importance of sustainable habits and teach them how their actions can affect our planet,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee. “Waste in our landfills contributes significantly to our City’s carbon emissions and minimizing our schools’ trash will go a long way towards helping us combat climate change.  I commend the DOE and DSNY for their bold leadership on this important issue.”

“I applaud the efforts by the Administration, the DOE and DSNY in rolling out Zero Waste Schools this fall in all New York City Public Schools,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Chair of the Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee. “As Chair of Sanitation and Solid Waste Management at the City Council, I know this program will dramatically reduce waste in our communities by implementing sorting and recycling strategies as well as promote composting in neighborhoods throughout the City.”

Additional information on Zero Waste Schools can be found in the sustainability section

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