BATH — Regional School Unit 1 students want to make their schools more environmentally friendly by reducing waste in ways that could also save the district some green.

A committee, formed in June at the behest of Fisher Mitchell School fifth-graders, will explore alternative recycling and waste disposal options and present its recommendations next year. The group is expected to have its first meeting next month.

Improving the waste system will teach students environmentally conscious habits while being more cost-effective, according to district officials. RSU 1 spends about $3,000 per month in trash collection fees, according to Partick Manuel, superintendent of RSU 1. 

“The mission is to implement changes in the way we handle trash,” said Manuel. “(The students) look at the issue not just from a day-to-day mindset but from a generational perspective.” 

In the past two years, the city of Bath has banned the use of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene food containers to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. Plastic bags and foam food containers were targeted because the materials don’t break down in the environment. 

Bath’s waste committee also launched a public composting project to prevent organic trash from taking up space and filling Bath’s landfill sooner. The public composting bins have kept nearly 15 tons of solid waste out of the landfill.

Eric Varney, principal of Morse High School, said the formation of the districtwide solid waste committee is, “a step in the right direction.”

“The reality is this generation is going to have to clean up the mess, and they’re really hearing that,” said Varney.

This week Fisher Mitchell School in Bath is eliminating plastic straws and utensils and opting to use metal silverware, which is a change the students requested, according to Principal Ross Berkowitz.

“This has been driven by the kids and it’s our job to figure out how to make it happen,” said Berkowitz.

Dike Newell is the only school in the district using plastic utensils, but all schools are using straws except for Fisher Mitchell, according to Manuel. 

Other clubs in RSU 1 schools have taken steps to make their schools more environmentally friendly. Last year, a club at Morse High School’s sold reusable straws to students at a discounted price to drawing students away from using disposable plastic straws.

Berkowitz said he believes students have been inspired in part by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who inspired climate marches that drew millions across the globe last month. Thunberg also traveled to the U.S. demanding politicians at the United Nations take climate change seriously. 

In June, the Maine Senate passed a bill that will help reduce food waste in Maine schools. Once the law is enacted in January, the Department of Education will develop a food sharing policy between Maine schools and local food banks. Schools will, “collect whole and packaged school cafeteria surplus or leftover food and share it with the community,” according to the bill. 

Rep. Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred, who created the bill, said it will help reduce the amount of wasted food schools produce while simultaneously bringing food to food banks in need.

“I have been in schools numerous times and have been shocked at the amount of food kids need to take but end up throwing away,” said Sampson. “All this food that can’t go in the compost – yogurt, cheese, dairy – but it’s still perfectly good.”

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