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Brighton schools aim for zero waste

May 9, 2017

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The Brighton Central School District hopes to be the first district in Monroe County to recycle most of its waste.

Superintendent Kevin McGowan said the district’s initial goal is to divert 80 percent of its waste from landfills and then reach 90 percent landfill diversion in three years to become a certified zero waste facility.

"It'll take time to get there. This is evening and after school events, our cafeterias, etcetera, really using this as an educational component to teach kids about those values we hold so important around sustainability and being more environmentally responsible."

A zero waste solutions company called Impact Earth will assess the school district's current landfill diversion rate and station volunteers at recycling bins in school buildings and at events.

"No different than some of the places you can go now, like the University of Rochester, which has bins that are very separate,” McGowan said. “I've noticed them in Wegmans as well, where you have to make choices about where your items are being discarded. We hope kids will notice that and that it will be a good learning experience for them."

A pilot zero waste initiative will start this fall at French Road Elementary School and then expand to every school building and classroom throughout the district.

The initiative began in March at after school and evening events. Cassidy Putney, director of sustainability at Impact Earth, said recycling efforts at those events exceeded the initial goals with a more than 95 percent landfill diversion rate.

"I don't want to say it's impossible to get to 100 percent, because I think it's possible," Putnam said.

McGowan said the initiative won't result in any costs for the district. In fact, he said, it may lead to savings from fewer disposal fees, though the district is not counting on that.