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Students key in helping PUSD enact new recycling policy by Earth Day

Waste audits lead to separating recyclables, organics in PUSD lunch areas

It wasn't exactly dumpster diving but students at all Pleasanton public schools, and the Pleasanton Unified School District headquarters, spent the first part of 2019 rolling up their sleeves to conduct daily audits of lunch waste on their campuses.

Now, with everyone's help, district officials are set to meet their goal deadline of Earth Day for implementing their new integrated waste management policy in lunch areas district-wide.

Superintendent David Haglund said that it's been the district's goal "for many years ... to educate global citizens" and they are "incredibly proud of all the students who used their voice to advocate" for the cause.

"To commit fully to this, we must work together to address one of the most glaring global issues -- dealing with waste," Haglund said in a statement. "This project has garnered support from every stakeholder group in the district."

Students, staff and parent volunteers spent the first few months sorting nearly 2,000 pounds of trash, recycling and compost material into piles, which were then bagged and weighed.

The data was used to decide how many recycling (blue) and organics (green) waste cans were needed in each school's lunch area. And with key funding via a grant from the Altamont Education Advisory Board, all PUSD lunch areas will be in compliance with the district's new waste management policy by Earth Day on Monday.

The earth-friendly effort started last year, when the Local Leaders of the 21st Century Club at Amador Valley High School began lobbying the district for a policy that would help keep them in compliance and reduce the amount of waste on campus. The club is run with help from the local nonprofit Go Green Initiative and gives students an understanding of how public agencies and industries work together to maintain energy, food, water and waste systems.

Club members spoke during public comment at school board meetings and worked with the district to plan and apply their feedback. Club president Varsha Madapoosi said, "Of all the things I was involved with in high school, this project had the biggest impact on my life."

Jill Buck, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Go Green Initiative, called the students "relentless" when it came to advocating and helping the policy pass in February 2018 and said they "deserve a lot of respect."

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