Philadelphia dumps an outdated garbage disposal system, saving money and the environment.
Lunch hour at Potter-Thomas School in Philadelphia used to get messy. We’re talking gymnasium doubling as cafeteria, collapsible tables, and no fixed trash receptacles.
“It was gross,” says Wayne Grasela, director of food service for the School District of Philadelphia. And expensive. “The waste removal program was running a million dollars over budget every year,” due in part to too much garbage, Grasela says. Plus, a federal mandate required the district to start recycling. It was time for a change.
Enter the Somat system. It takes the school’s waste, pulps it (removing all the liquid), and pumps it out to Dumpsters as confetti, which is then treated with a deodorizer and insect repellent.
The district started a pilot program two years ago. “There are metal holes in the wall into which students dump their trash,” Grasela explains. “There’s been an eight-to-one reduction in trash. For every eight bags we had, we now have only a small pile of confetti.”
Since implementing the system, the district has saved $7,554 a year per location. And money isn’t all it’s saving. Less trash means environmental rewards as well. It’s no surprise the district plans to add six more machines this year.
Christine Weiser is a writer and editor who has reported on K-12 education technology for more than 15 years.