The city of Westerville's new food-waste composting program is off to a good start, with some help from Emerson Elementary School students.
Kevin Weaver, Westerville's director of public service, said the goal is to compost 10 tons of food waste during the program's first year, and he hopes to get well past that with Emerson families getting it going.
Colleen Moidu, executive director of the Westerville Education Foundation and the mother of Leo Moidu, was among the first to participate in the program by dropping off 9 pounds of food waste March 9.
She said 47.7 pounds of food waste came from just four Emerson families in the first week of the program.
"If the students and families match this for the next 42 weeks, they will exceed their goal of one ton," she said. "They also have six other families committed and expect many more to join over the coming months."
Through the program, residents can place compostable food items in marked 64-gallon receptacles at city facilities at 350 Park Meadow Road and 469 Westdale Ave., 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Weaver said.
The containers will be serviced weekly by Springfield-based GoZERO Services.
The program is made possible by a grant of up to $9,240 (the maximum reimbursable amount), or up to 75% from the Solid Waste Authority of Ohio's Community Waste Reduction Grant program, Weaver said.
He said the city distributed 43 of 300 buckets for food waste in the first week.
The program is offered for free to residents.
Participants also may use their own containers to collect food waste.
Residents who want a bucket from the city may call 614-901-6740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We were pleased at the number of people who stopped to pick up a bucket," Weaver said. "Where we got started was looking at Upper Arlington. They have a program."
Leo Moidu and Max Crites, another Emerson student, started talking about launching a school environmental club over the holidays.
They met with their principal Chris Poynter on Feb. 7 and had their first club meeting March 3, the day after the city announced the new composting program.
"Both students had been inspired to fund raise for environmental causes over the last year," Colleen Moidu said. "In fact, both requested donations to environmental organization instead of presents for their birthdays this past year."
The goal of the seven-member club is to engage the Emerson community, both at home and school, to divert 1,000 pounds of food waste from landfills by Dec. 31.
Poynter said he is a big fan of student-led clubs and extracurricular activities.
"The environmental club, spearheaded by Leo and Max, exhibits the type of 'think global, act local' mindset we grow at Emerson," he said. "This club builds awareness within our school about the values of composting while aligning with a community initiative of composting 10 tons of waste in a year. Max and Leo are passionate, creative and have big ideas. It will be a lot of fun watching their leadership evolve this club over time."
Max said food and fresh water are running out, sea levels are rising and forests are disappearing.
"We know this because of the science behind it all," he said. "There are little things we can do today to help our tomorrow. I want to be a part of making a change."
Leo said many students care about the environment.
"Life has existed on our planet for billions of years," he said. "The damage humans have done in the last 100 years is so terrible. It's OK to make mistakes, but we need to fix them now before it is too late."
Westerville Vice Mayor Valerie Cumming said she is proud Westerville has moved ahead with a communitywide composting program, and she is excited for all residents, particularly students and young people, to get involved.
"It's an easy, effective way for even our youngest community members to take part in sustainability measures that will make a real difference in the long run," she said.