A grant from SWACO helped New Albany-Plain Local Schools establish a districtwide recycling program last year.

A grant from SWACO helped New Albany-Plain Local Schools establish a districtwide recycling program last year.

With the help of a new grant, district officials aim to expand green practices even further.

After receiving a $5,000 grant from Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio last year, the district recently received a $1,100 grant to establish a pilot "waste-free" lunch program.

According to information from SWACO, the $1,100 grant will help educate students and staff on recycling, composting and reusing to eliminate waste from lunch.

Ken Stark, district director of business, said the program would begin with a few classes at the 2-5 school but could be expanded over the district if it goes well.

"We'll see what kind of issues we run into and work out some of the kinks," he said. "We start it on a small scale and see how we can grow it if it's effective."

The idea came from a parent who wanted to do something about trash generated in the school cafeterias, and Stark said it initially would be aimed at students who bring a lunch to school.

"The idea is particularly for kids who bring a lunch. There are things they can do with trash generated, like bring a container instead of a plastic bag, bring washable silverware instead of using plastic silverware," he said. "Use a reusable water jug; those kinds of things like using a lunch box as opposed to a paper sack."

Students will get kits to help them through the process and see the effect, Stark said.

"We'll buy specialized kits, and they'll weigh the amount of trash they have before," he said.

Although focusing on students who bring lunch to school is a place to start, Stark said, introducing a program to lunch preparation at the school could be more difficult.

"With school lunches, it's different. Obviously, the biggest is food waste (and) then napkins," he said.

A major difficulty with recycling and composting in the cafeteria would be in separating all of the waste, Stark said. Recycling done in classrooms is separated at the recycling plant, and it could be difficult to find inexpensive ways to compost food waste.

"What I'm hoping will come down the road is an efficient way to compost that stuff that we can access locally," he said.

Other items used in the cafeteria, such as plastic ware and disposable food trays, could be recycled one day, but Stark said all of the kinks haven't been worked out of environmentally friendly lunch tools, such as corn-oil-based plastic ware.

"There are still some issues with it, and it's very expensive," he said.

The district is starting small with the most recent program, but Stark gave SWACO credit for help with past programs.

"SWACO has been really helpful all through the process in helping us get our programs together and help us oversee those and make sure they work the way they should," he said. "They've been a tremendous help."

jnoblit@thisweeknews.com