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NCSS considers using recyclable lunch trays
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Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful Executive Director Connie Waller is a crusader. In April, KCNB volunteers worked with the community during the Great American Cleanup. Now it's on to the Newton County schools.

Waller proposed the county uses recyclable plastic foam trays in a presentation at last month's Board of Education meeting. Waller and board members Cathy Dobbs and C.C. Bates visited two schools in Gwinnett County, which currently uses recyclable trays, and observed the recycling process.

Currently, Newton County schools use more than 4 million trays annually. Those are disposable foam trays that make their way into landfills. According to Dobbs, using recyclable trays would cut down on the waste management fees as the schools would produce 50 percent less trash.

The trays would serve two purposes. Using recyclable trays would save the district money while helping rid the environment of waste

"This is one of those issues I've been thinking about for a very long time," Dobbs said. "When I heard we used that many trays, I felt like we needed to do something. That many trays just take up so much space in landfills and they don't biodegrade."

Dobbs said the key to the program lies in choosing a vendor.

"We must go green from the start," she said. "For this to really work, we would have to demand our supplier use 15 percent recycled foam in their trays.

"It's like a circle. If we can buy trays from a vendor who needs recycled foam pellets, we can also make money off of the trays we send in for recycling."

Several initial costs would mean the program wouldn't save any money during the first couple of years. Newton County would have to purchase a specially outfitted truck used to pick up and deliver trays as well as the carts used in the cafeterias to corral and bag the trays.

Dobbs pointed out that the school system has to purchase trays regardless, so at worst, the county would initially break even.

Should the county adopt such a program, the schools would gather trays each day and bag them for transport by truck to a recycling firm where they would be broken down, cleaned and transformed into pellets to be used in new foam products.

In the long run, the school system will save money and cut down on waste.

"Our schools are site-based management so we need to ultimately get our administrators involved," she said.

The board has yet to make a decision on the program and the public is always encouraged to attend the bi-monthly board meetings. Ultimately Dobbs hopes the county follows Gwinnett and Cobb counties in adopting the recycling initiative.

"It's the right thing for us to do," Dobbs said. "It teaches our kids to be responsible, helps the environment and cuts down on costs for the school system. We need to help the environment, and our school systems are a good place to begin."