If you'd like to know more about our program logistics, below are some Frequently Asked Questions you might find helpful:


1. Who handles the station set-up and dismantling of the Zero Waste Stations in the school cafeteria?

School custodial staff.

2. Do the collection receptacles get emptied in between lunch services?

Nothing needs to get emptied between lunches. The sorting at Zero Waste Stations has helped reduce the trash volume.

3. After lunch service, who empties the receptacles, and takes waste to appropriate storage or collection spot (ie. drains liquid, places trash in dumpster, places compost material in outside toters, Etc)?

Custodial staff. Just to be clear, compost material is collected directly in the Black Earth provided 64-gallon bins. Custodians only need to roll the bins in and out of the cafeteria, they do NOT need to do any transferring of the compost material.

4. Who cleans out receptacles? Which ones are lined?

Custodial staff. Compost is lined with a compostable bag provided by Black Earth. The only receptacles that might be cleaned by custodians are the blue recyclable bins (in some cases, they line with a plastic bag) and the liquid buckets.

5. Are there also trash barrels elsewhere in the cafeteria or are there only collection stations?

We cannot stress enough how critical it is to NOT place any trash barrels around except at the Zero Waste Stations.

This is the same at all schools and is KEY to the process: that the ONLY receptacles for disposing of anything are always all in the same place.

6. What happens to the trays? Are they combined with the recycling?

Our trays are compostable. At ES and MS we stack them to save space, and then dump them in the compost bin at the end of lunch.

Please note, in order to streamline at HS, liquid is dumped into compost toters directly, trays are stacked at the back edge of the toter. Therefore Zero Waste Stations at HS has only three receptacles: Compost, Recycle, and Trash.

7. Are all stations still monitored? By volunteers? For those that are, are there two monitors for each station? If the High School (or any school) no longer needs monitoring because the students know how to divert their waste at this point? Or perhaps the students oversee? Do teachers ever monitor?

It varies, but it is still mostly monitored by parents in all school levels, but students do assist. It varies in the schools, but it can be 1-2 parents per Zero Waste Station.

Even the HS has parent volunteers. Upperclass students at the HS have likely had only this year’s experience of separating their waste like this everyday, which is one of the biggest reasons why we have parent volunteers there.

Most MS and HS students can handle it themselves. Some students are in too much of a rush at the end of lunch or don’t care, and thus the need for monitors. MS and HS only need one monitor per station (though the quality of student monitors varies).

8. How many stations are there in each cafeteria? Any sense of how many students are served by each station? (We are currently considering four collection stations to serve about 200 students, so 50 students per station).

At an elementary school of 500, we have 1 station in which the students come in at overlapping times (each grade of 70-100 students at a time). At one MS we have two stations for a lunch that has about 230+ students at a time (there are 4 lunch periods). At HS we have 5 stations for 800 students at a time (3 lunch periods).

The issue is the rush at the end of lunch, you might want two stations if 200 students are having lunch at the same time.

9. Are there any written procedures, specifying responsibilities (eg custodial versus food services versus volunteers), set-up, break-down, cleaning, timing (such as: all compost material must be out at loading dock by 3:00 pm)?

Not necessarily, it varies by school, it’s been an evolving process that has involved individuals at each site.

10. To that question, was the health department involved in developing procedures?



1. About how many pounds of waste is collected each day (or week)? Each school will likely be different - I’m wondering about pounds of compost material in particular.

Our very rough estimates are a bit less than 1 lb per week per student for elementary (4 lunches per week) and a bit more than 1 lb per week per student for MS and HS (5 lunches per week) for a total of about 130 tons for the whole school system for one whole school year. We think our estimates are on the conservative side, around 3.4 tons per week for all nine schools (includes kitchen waste, dumping old unserved food).

2. Do you know the extent to which (ie pounds) trash was reduced when composting, liquid waste diversion and recycling was introduced?

We know that volume has been reduced by about 80-85%. Weight reduction is probably the same or more as food and liquid are the heaviest of all waste by volume.

3. How many toters of compost material are collected each week (at each school)?

See our Program Logistics Page.

1. How many toters do they supply (each school)?

  • ES: 4x 64 gallon toters for the 4 lunch days/week. collected once on Sat.
  • MS: 7x 64 gallon toters for 5 lunch days/week, collected Tues, Thurs, Sat.
  • HS: 16x 64 gallon toters for 5 lunch days/week, collected Tued, Thurs, Sat.

The number of toters at the MS and HS is enough for two days of lunches plus an extra toter just in case the kitchen needs more. The toter for the kitchen is often 1/2 full.

The number of toters and schedules were arrived at by trial and error, balancing the combination of storage space limitations, pickup logistics, and volume of waste.

2. How often do they pick up (and do they circulate to each school for these pickups or are the schools on different schedules?)?

see above

3. Are the compost toters lined? Do they supply the liners and if not, who pays for/provides them (custodial services? Food services?)

They are lined and provided by Black Earth.

4. Does BE do any toter cleaning? They’ve told us that if we want them to clean, they’ll charge extra and there must be a spigot and hose nearby for doing so (which is actually just a rinse, not a sanitation)?

BE had rinsed and deodorized toters for us, but we have to ask them to do it.

5. Does BE have other Town contracts such as residential compost pickup?

BE provides residential pickup which is contracted on an individual basis. Residents can get a free compost bin from the Lexington DPW when they show their BE contract.


1. How is the program paid for?

LPS School Budget.

2. Do you know whether the cost of trash hauling has been reduced as a result? I am hopeful that our program, for example, will cut the frequency of trash dumpster pickup to once a week (from twice a week), which is, essentially, cutting the cost by half.

In Lexington, trash hauling is a fixed price in the current contract, but trash tipping at the incinerator is by the ton, so there should be a savings of $70-80/ton of diverted compost. Hauling costs for the hauler are certainly less as the amount of waste they are transporting is less.