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How we handle lunch waste

Recycling is Simply Elementary


The DavisRISE lunch waste reduction program is designed to handle both home and school lunch waste. Each site has a four-container recycling station with standardized, color-coded signage (both English and Spanish) on the containers and carts to clarify what goes where.

Each school site has its own rules for timing the dismissal of students from lunch and for organizing students during their waste disposal routine.  In general, students walk to the recycling station to sort their waste into separate containers/carts as described below.


Rigid plastics-metal-glass recycling:  Typical items include yogurt containers, plastic salad containers, cereal or fruit containers, foil, cans, straws, drink bottles.

Organics:  The All Lunch Leftover Compost (ALL Compost) program will change its name to Organics Program as of July 2016 in accordance with new regulations from the City of Davis. The Organics program accepts all food waste including meat, dairy, and bones; also napkins, paper towels, and school milk/juice cartons (polyethylene coated paperboard).

Trash:  Typical items include plastic wrap, plastic bags, milk/juice boxes & bags (from home), chip bags and Styrofoam products.

Paper recycling–Stack cardboard trays:  School lunch is typically served in cardboard trays. These trays are sorted into the paper carts (if clean) or into the organics cart if greasy or food soiled. It is useful to have a defined area at a convenient height so that it is easy for children to sort.

Other:  Some schools participate in the “Terracycle” waste diversion brigades, where different types of waste are collected and mailed in to the company for re-purposing. Students receive awards for their efforts.  For these diversions, a separate box or container is set up at lunch. See link below.
The sorting process can be challenging as students are often in a hurry after lunch!  DavisRISE tries to limit cross-contamination of waste streams by training students and giving them frequent reminders. At elementary schools, Site Leaders monitor students as they dispose of waste; this has proven to be the most effective way to maintain proper sorting.  At secondary schools, students are responsible for sorting their own waste.
After students have finished sorting, the Site Leader, custodians, staff, and volunteers spot check the carts and containers and pull out misplaced items. Ensuring that waste is properly sorted is a critical aspect of the overall success of this program. At elementary school, this is an important role of the Site Leader.
Standardized signs we use
Link to Terracycle programs
For more information on composting go to our compost page
Find out more by clicking on the links below.
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