2014-01-17 / Community

SPHS students make treasure out of trash

Garbage to Garden teaches valuable lesson in recycling and composting
By Ben Pinette
Contributing Writer


Portland resident Sean Milligan, right, who works for Garbage to Garden, and junior Brandon Hamilton were at South Portland High School last week to educate students about composting and recycling. South Portland High School is one of the first schools in the area to work with the company. (Ben Pinette photo) Portland resident Sean Milligan, right, who works for Garbage to Garden, and junior Brandon Hamilton were at South Portland High School last week to educate students about composting and recycling. South Portland High School is one of the first schools in the area to work with the company. (Ben Pinette photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – South Portland students are enjoying more than a new high school. They’re also now a part of a popular recycling program called Garbage to Garden.

Garbage to Garden focuses on eliminating food waste with curbside composting. The company will take any compostable item from a home or business and bring it to a farm in Gorham. Old vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy, bones and more are accepted for the process. Piles of recycled waste are then heated up at temperatures between 120 and 170 degrees, and stockpiled for upwards to four months. Once this step is complete, the waste has transformed into a dark soil that can be used on lawns and gardens. The company then delivers the fresh compost back to its customers, if the customers so choose.

“It’s your waste. We believe it belongs to you,” said employee Sean Milligan. Milligan is also a freelance writer for the Sentry.

South Portland High School is one of the first schools in the area to work with the company, and students are excited.

“It’s a great idea to cut down on waste. We should focus more on issues like this because we are the future,” said junior Vittoria Alexander. “It is great to know you are making an impact, even if it is in some small way.”

Teacher Rick Romanow also had praise for the program.

“This is a great way to start a new tradition and awareness of recycling,” he said.

Milligan has been working at the school during its first week of implementation, the week of Jan. 6, showing students how to separate their waste. He has composted his entire life and found a job at the organization after he finished college in spring, graduating with a degree in English communications.

“We’re helping kids sort their waste into compostables, recyclables and trash. We can’t just keep throwing everything into landfills,” Milligan said.

Milligan and the company aim to preserve Maine’s natural beauty and hope composting can make a difference.

“If you have the option to recycle then why wouldn’t you? Compost is like steroids for plants,” he added.

Tania Ferrante, an ecology teacher at the high school, has embraced the program and plays an active role in the school’s involvement. Ferrante directs students on where to throw their waste and offers assistance, if needed.

Garbage to Garden had found success in its first week at the high school. The volume of trash has declined drastically and recycling totals have increased. Before the process, the school disposed of 139 pounds of trash a day. With Garbage to Garden’s help, the school generates 20 pounds a day, and recycles the rest.

“We’re always talking about making things relevant for students,” Ferrante said. “They’re seeing it be successful.”

After witnessing success at her school, Ferrante hopes other school districts can make recycling a priority.

“We really want to push away from landfills,” she added.

Ferrante cites the school’s support as a main reason for the program’s success.

“All of this would not have happened without the school’s support. The administration and staff have all been encouraging,” she said.

Garbage to Garden has also found success.

“It was very difficult to convince businesses to join with us six months ago. Now everyone wants to join,” Milligan said.

The company has expanded throughout the Portland area and more cities are embracing the program. Curbside composting is now offered in Portland, South Portland, Westbrook, Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth.

“The community wants to do this. We’re just helping them,” Milligan said.

Garbage to Garden also aims to educate more people about the benefits of composting.

“If you want adults to do this, you have to teach kids. It’s important to teach them about composting as early as possible,” Milligan said.

Milligan and company have high hopes for the future.

“Ideally everyone will be composting one day. Nationwide or even globally,” he said. “We just want to do our part.”

For more information, contact Garbage to Garden at 332-0277 or visit them online at www.garbagetogarden.org.

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