PORTLAND — A community group working to reduce waste in the city’s schools recently won the grand prize in the annual eco-Excellence Awards given by ecomaine, a nonprofit waste disposal and recycling agency owned by 21 area cities and towns.

The agency singled out the Portland Waste Reduction Group, a coalition of parents, waste managers, school officials and others that is working to implement successful pilot projects for managing the school district’s trash.

Organized in 2009, the group partnered with Huhtamaki Packaging of Waterville to replace foam lunch trays with recyclable, compostable paper trays at Lincoln Middle School. The group also helped custodial staff, teachers and students at Clifford Elementary School start recycling plastic milk bottles. The efforts are being expanded to other Portland schools.

The agency, which operates a trash-to-energy incinerator and recycling facility off outer Congress Street, presented 38 eco-Excellence Awards representing 35 communities at a recent appreciation luncheon.

Also recognized was Frank Kehoe’s carpentry class at Portland Arts and Technology High School, which is studying and applying green building practices, such as recycling construction waste.

Elliott May of Portland also was honored, for operating the Campus Consciousness Tour for Reverb, a nonprofit organization that educates musicians and their audiences about sustainability. May organized a local social networking group called Greendrinks, which attracts 250-300 like-minded people each month.

Each winner received a framed award and a fleece jacket made from recycled plastic. The Portland Waste Reduction Group also received a white rocking chair made from recycled plastic lumber by Conversion Products of Biddeford.

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