California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Westmorland Elementary--Power in Partnership

Surrounded by the desert and farmland areas of Imperial County, the City of Westmorland is home to approximately 2,230 residents and Westmorland Union Elementary School District (a one-school district). The only school within the city limits, Westmorland Elementary is one of the city’s largest employers and one of the largest generators of waste. As such, the school was the perfect partner for the city to work with in their common goal to reduce waste by 50 percent.

While the city instituted its first recycling contract for residents and businesses, Ignacio Garcia (Westmorland School Supervisor of Maintenance and Operations) set out to maximize recycling while preventing waste within the school. He secured the strong support of key players in the School Board, City Council, and City Public Works. Through this powerful partnership, Westmorland Elementary ultimately achieved over 50 percent reduction of its waste, while realizing significant economic and environmental benefits.


Establishing a Baseline and Monitoring Success

Before the waste reduction program began, the school had three 6-cubic-yard bins of garbage picked up twice per week, totaling 36 cubic yards capacity per week. After overhauling its management of waste, the school cut back to two 6-cubic-yard garbage containers, and one 3-cubic-yard bin for recyclables picked up once per week. This is a reduction of more than half the existing disposal capacity!! Ignacio reports that the school now only generates 7 cubic yards of garbage per week, but retains two refuse containers to prevent overflow. As a result of this action, the school saves between $2,500 and $3,000 per year on its trash bill.

Ignacio analyzed all aspects of school operation waste streams in order to achieve this dramatic success. He acknowledged the support and leadership of School Board member Al Kalin, who participated in initial meetings with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), the Imperial Valley Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and the city. Kalin saw the importance of the issue, and empowered Ignacio to change patterns of operation within the school. Additionally, Councilman Larry Ritchie became a liaison between the school and city, and worked with Public Works Director of Operations Joe Diaz to get recycling started with the proper infrastructure.

Key personnel standing next to dumpster.

Shown here, from left to right, Ignacio Garcia, Westmorland School Maintenance and Operations Supervisor; Liz Rodriguez, Imperial Valley Waste Management Task Force Joint Powers Authority (JPA) staff; and Joel Hamby, Executive Public Works Director, City of Westmorland.

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Recycling: Cardboard, Mixed Paper, and Food Containers

Ignacio first targeted the largest component of the school’s daily waste stream: paper and cardboard. In true "reduce, reuse, recycle" fashion, borrowed milk crates from the cafeteria were used as mixed paper collection containers for the 26 classrooms, replacing one of the two classroom trash cans.

Shown here is Ignacio, "Nacho" Garcia, Maintenance and Operations Supervisor, (left) with milk crates borrowed for use as recycling containers, and (right) in the school cafeteria with lined container used for breakfast waste. The cafeteria purchases heavier lined bags for breakfast waste, so straws do not puncture them. These same bags are placed in the carts that deliver breakfast to the classrooms, to hold waste that is carted back to the cafeteria. This prevents milk from flowing out of the bagged garbage which would dirty the breakfast carts and possibly contaminate unused food products being returned to the cafeteria.

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Garcia with milk crates. Garcia with lined barrel.

The city worked with the local refuse and recycling collection company, Valley Environmental Services, to start up commercial collection of mixed recyclables (i.e., all recycled materials go in the same container), making sure that the bin rate provided an incentive for recycling. Most cardboard is generated in the cafeteria; the rest results from office and computer supply deliveries. Ignacio provided school staff with blades to break down cardboard, and showed them how to cut, fold, and stack it. Other cafeteria recyclables include large food cans. Staff now open both sides of the cans and flatten them to fit them and other recyclables into the 3-yard recycling bin. In addition to recycling, "we reuse papers printed only on one side, and we have double-sided copiers in the office. All notices sent home with the children are printed in English on one side and in Spanish on the other," says Ignacio.

Contents | Westmorland continued

Last updated: February 27, 2017
School Waste Reduction
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