San Marcos CISD looks to save landfills by composting

San Marcos CISD says their composting program has helped eliminate their amount of waste dramatically. (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – In an attempt to reduce the amount of trash entering the Austin landfill, the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District started a composting program that has proven to be extremely successful.

“On an average elementary campus, we used to throw away about 30-40 bags of trash per day per campus,” said SMCISD Director of Custodial Services Robert Gutierrez. “Once we started to compost, we averaged about six to eight bags of trash per day. That’s a lot of trays, that’s a lot of food and a lot of composting that used to go straight into the landfill.”

The composting program has been implemented in every elementary school and middle school in the district. Gutierrez says he hopes to see the program expand to the high school level soon.

“We are teaching them what the future has for us all, and that’s recycling,” said Gutierrez.

It’s a simple concept, but Gutierrez says that’s why it works. “Even the little kiddos are aware of it, as they go into the upper grades, they’ll start to say ‘hey, what else can we recycle?’” he said.

Recently, biodegradable trays were introduced to all lunchrooms. “We are trying to eliminate using Styrofoam, because Styrofoam is not good for the environment and it lasts forever before it degrades,”said Gutierrez. “These are a lot better, we’re already seeing the benefits. Although they are still going into the landfill, we know that they are not going to be in there for a thousand years.”

Gutierrez says that being environmentally friendly comes with a price. He estimates that the school district will pay an extra $15,000 just for the biodegradable trays a year.

“There’s not a lot of real interest in recycling, the stuff is just more expensive,” said Gutierrez.

However, because the district is creating less waste by composting, he hopes to make up the cost by paying less for trash pick-up.

The Austin Independent School District says they operate with a similar program. Right now, they’re composting in all of their elementary schools and hope to add middle schools and high schools by the end of 2018. Austin ISD says they hope to meet or beat the city of Austin’s zero waste goal by 2040.

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