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Here's how a school reduced its waste by 80 percent

Weaver Lake Elementary received a school recycling grant in 2016.

An elementary school in Maple Grove is seeing a significant reduction in its school lunch waste. 

This is the third school year Weaver Lake Elementary—a Science, Math & Technology School—has used a sorting table in the cafeteria. When students are done with their lunch, they bring their trays up to the sorting table and everything left is sorted into three categories: Recycling, trash and organics for composting.

"As an environmentalist myself, I feel like we owe it to our kids too to teach them that at a young age their responsibility to the environment and to the world," Principal Dennis Palm said. "When you look at other places, whether it's the Science Museum, restaurants, everybody is starting to do the three sort. So I just felt it made sense for us to try to lead that."

Palm was originally approached by a parent who had heard about Hennepin County Environment and Energy's school recycling grants. Weaver Lake Elementary received one of these grants in 2016.

"Part of the grant was looking back and reflecting and calculating our waste. We've reduced our waste by 80 percent, which is awesome," Palm said. "So now instead of putting in five bags of trash, we're putting in one bag of trash to that five." 

Weaver Lake Elementary is one of two schools with Osseo Area Schools that have adopted this system. 

"It's a great system. I mean we're saving a lot on the amount of garbage we're putting out there. It's far less than what we used to do. So it's great and it's teaching the kids something that's really important," said Tom Madden, a custodian at Weaver Lake Elementary. 

Madden also helps guide the students during the sorting process. Students are taught how to sort and given reminders before they drop off their trays during lunchtime. 

Second grader Archer Peltier said he likes it because he's "not wasting a bunch of stuff." 

"Once we can get people into that mindset that you can make a difference, and when you multiply that times the number of people and the amount of trash and waste, it really can impact our cities and our country," Palm said. 

Starting this week, Hennepin County Environment and Energy will start accepting applications for this year's school recycling grants. The program helps schools set up or improve their recycling or organic programs. 

Kira Berglund, the county's school recycling specialist, said it's open to any K-12, private, public or charter school in Hennepin County.

The program has $200,000 available and schools can apply for up to $50,000. 

Berglund said every school that applies is awarded some amount of funding. 

You can learn more about the application process here.