By Grace Walters
During the fall of her junior year, senior Maya Pockrose attended the Maine Coast Chewonki semester school, a private institution centered around community and environmental justice. There, Pockrose participated in the school’s composting program, which prompted her to “want to make a change at AHS” and pursue a similar endeavor at Arlington High School.
Upon returning from Chewonki, Pockrose wrote a proposal to the school administration and began working with the school’s sustainability coordinator, Rachel Oliveri. She then met with the administration and negotiated a compost “pilot,” by which a simple system of composting would be used in the cafeteria one day a week. Pockrose says, “we only did it once a week because we were testing it out […] this year, we were able to have [the system run] every day because we figured out funding and a good system with the custodians.”
Compost is made possible at AHS by Black Earth Compost, a local company that collects and composts organic waste in Massachusetts. “They basically take away our food waste and they process it at their facility because [AHS] doesn’t have space or the resources to have a fully-functioning processing system,” says Pockrose.
How Composting Works
The composting initiative has been in effect since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. However, many students are still confused as to how it works. Most plastics, such as wrappers and bottles, are either recycled or thrown into the regular trash bin, and organic materials—namely, food scraps, lunch trays, and organic napkins, wrappers, and food boats—are thrown into the compost bin.
In an attempt to increase the normality of composting, Pockrose “tried to incentivize [composting]” by holding a raffle in which every person who composted would be in the running to receive a Dunkin Donuts gift card. Pockrose adds, “We decided not to do [a raffle] this year because people just need to get used to [composting] of their own volition.”
The Benefits of Composting
Once it is finally processed, compost can be added to soil and used for agricultural purposes. Pockrose says, “It adds a lot of nutrients to the soil […] the reason you don’t want to put compost in a landfill is because it is not going to be properly aerated […] you might think it will break down by itself in the same amount of time, but it would take so much longer if you put a banana peel in a landfill than in a compost bin because it’s smothered by plastics and it’s just not gonna work out […] It’s good for the earth because you get those nutrients back into the cycle.”