Out of sight, out of mind

For students, getting lunch will never be the same again


Photo by Sofia Olivera

Students have never had to think so hard about lunch.

Since the Shawnee MIssion School District incorporated compost bins into the lunchroom, sorting out compostables from recycling and trash has been difficult. Luckily, representatives from Johnson County Solid Waste Department arrived to help students.

“I think it’s important,” Johnson County Environmental Health Specialist Brandon Hearns said. “If usable materials go to the landfill then there is really no use for them. Then we have to look at building new landfills for that waste or material. If it can be used for something else and not wasted, that is just the better option.”

It all started with an idea from a mother of a student at Briarwood Elementary back in 2008 and has been growing until it reached cafeterias in the NW area this year.

Three labeled bins allow students to sort their trash rather than throwing everything away. The blue bin is for recyclable materials such as plastic bottles, the green bin is for compostable materials such as food and cardboard, and the grey bin is for trash such as wrappers.

“They are keeping around 80-85 percent of their trash out of the landfill, so that’s awesome,” solid waste coordinator Craig Wood said. “It’s either being composted or recycled now.”

Northwest has partnered with Missouri Organics to take trash that would usually take years to decay in a landfill and instead turn it into fertilizer for the newly opened Center of Academic Achievement (CAA). This process takes only four to six weeks. At the CAA they will use the fertilizer at the Broadmoor Urban farm to fertilize the variety of produce used at the Broadmoor Bistro.

“People have to rethink how the system is,” Johnson County Environmental Health Specialist Sadie Gardner said. “For most people, trash is out of sight, out of mind. But it never actually goes away, it goes directly to the landfill.   in Johnson County, so the behavior change has a ripple effect of not just the students but their families. You will take this behavior with you.”

The Johnson County Solid Waste Department not only works with schools but also businesses and households to spread awareness of composting and help implement systems. Changing a behavior can be difficult after years of following a school routine.

“I do not like it at all,” sophomore Braeden Trondson said. “One It’s too complicated. I say we should throw all the trash away,” said. “And two, it takes like two minutes to throw my trash away when I used to be able to just dump it all in and be fine. Now one piece goes in here, one piece goes in there and it’s a pain.”

Other students, such as senior Mikayla Doyle, see the positive impact of composting.

“I’m happy that we are being eco-friendly,” Doyle said. “ we weren’t being sustainable at all. We were leaving a huge footprint in a way shorter time than we should.”

“It’s really a way of looking things, giving thought to the stuff that we use,” Hearn said. “Everything takes a long time to get to us, it doesn’t just appear in the store and it doesn’t just disappear when it leaves us.”

— Hearn