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G-M schools honored for recycling efforts

Compost has earned the Gill-Montague Regional School District the title “School Recycler of the Year.”

MassRecycle, a statewide coalition based in Concord and dedicated to promoting recycling, conferred the distinction this week after evaluating five nominations from across the state.

According to a release from the group, Gill-Montague’s organics recycling, student involvement and unique educational approach to recycling and waste reduction made it stand out as a nominee.

Students began separating food and paper lunch waste in the cafeterias for compost last fall, and the program is now up and running in each of the four school buildings, according to Amy Donovan.

Donovan, of the Franklin Regional Solid Waste Management District, began the program in the Gill-Montague schools and others.

Of the 30 schools in the Waste Management District, Donovan said 15 have begun composting, to varying degrees, but she chose to nominate Gill-Montague because the effort there is complete and districtwide.

“It was a whole school district, so it was a behavioral change that went across the whole school district and the whole community, really,” Donovan said.

Gill-Montague Interim Superintendent Mark Prince said he would like to thank Donovan for her leadership and the teachers and students for their commitment to the planet.

“Gill-Montague has led the commonwealth in this endeavor and this is just another example of how our positive efforts can have a significant impact on the future,” Prince said.

In the cafeterias, students have learned what to compost and what not to, very little given the commercial composting operation’s capacity to handle meat, bones, dairy products and milk cartons.

“They deserve it because they have a lot going on in the schools about sustainability and composting and recycling,” Donovan said.

The composting program sends two cubic yards of cafeteria waste per week to Martin’s Farm Recycling in Greenfield, Donovan said, waste that would otherwise head for a landfill.

Several of the classrooms also have worm bins or their own systems for diverting waste such as the ubiquitous brown paper towels into the compost bins, Donovan said.

While the waste will rot either way, in a landfill the airless decomposition process would produce significantly more methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, Donovan said.

This is the second time this year the compost program has earned the district environmental accolades, with a “Green Difference” award from Massachusetts-based, multi-state nonprofit organization “greenschools” in the spring.

Prince said the compost program is a “win-win” and will doubtless continue.

“Most definitely. It has benefit for the planet but it also has economic benefits for us,” Prince said.

The compost still has to be hauled away, but composters charge less to accept the waste than landfills because the end product is valuable to farms, according to Donovan.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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