Paulinian Recycling Index

"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" by Marela Mijares Flick SPCM HS'78, Orange County Register Editor.

"Gable Top cartons reduce Los Angeles school district waste problems" by Rocky Yupangco Buencamino SPCM HS'75, Chicago-based Marketing Services Manager of Business Area Carton Chilled, 1 of 4 divisions of food and beverage packaging/processing systems leader, Tetra Pak.

Resources: EPA's Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - San Jose Recycle Plus - SF Recycles - UK Recycle More - Kid-friendly:Recycle City - Planetpals - Organizations: Babilonia Wilner Environmental News Network - Sylvia Mesina SPCM HS65s Foundation for the Philippine Environment - Greenpeace - Haribon - RP Herbarium - Luntiang Pilipinas - Saniblakas - UN Environment Programme - US Environmental Protection Agency - more .

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

By Marela Mijares Flick

(This article offers practical tips to effective recycling at home. It was originally published in the Earth Day 2001 issue of Orange County Register. Photo taken with her batchmates during the Salo-salo sa San Francisco 2002 Inter-batch Reunion, Apr 02 (clockwise from top): Marel, Mae Cendana '75, Kat Niguidula, Sophia Rola, Michelle Cendana with Sabrina and Bebet Abiva with Isabella.)

Doing our part to take care of the environment includes putting time and effort into waste management. And this starts with recycling, right? Not quite. According to Orange County's Integrated Waste Management Department, it starts with source reduction, also known as waste prevention - cutting out waste even before it is created.


Californians generate a lot of garbage - about 44 million tons each year. This translates to roughly 6 to 8 pounds per person per day. "The good news is, the road to source reduction is not paved with difficulty. A little planning and some common sense go a long way in making major strides in the right direction," said Ray Hull, public information officer of the IWMD.

Take, for instance, those little cups of pudding in cardboard cartons that kids love to find in their lunch. Did you know a box of easy-to-prepare pudding mix is 64 percent less expensive, and results in 75 percent less waste?

By the same token, a one-gallon jug of water costs 87 percent less, and generates 80 percent less waste than a six-pack of 12-ounce plastic bottles.

What about those individual microwavable soups that people like to take to work? Sure, they're convenient. But a can of condensed soup is 82 percent cheaper and generates 46 percent less waste. Besides, it takes the same amount of time to microwave an equivalent portion of condensed soup in your own microwavable container.

After a long day at work, the last thing anyone wants to do is go through great lengths to prepare dinner. The less work involved, the better. This is why packaged, pre-cut vegetables find their way into most shopping carts. But consider this: A bundle of fresh broccoli costs 31 percent less and creates 80 percent less waste than shrink-wrapped florets in a styrofoam container.

Putting less packaging in your shopping cart stretches both food dollars and the life of landfills. According to the IWMD, there are more ways to be a smart shopper:

1.   Print on both sides of a sheet of paper.

2.   Buy concentrates, larger-size containers, or buy in bulk.

3.   Bring your own shopping bag to the store.

Even our lawns and how we maintain them can have a significant impact on the environment. Many California homeowners have turned to xeriscaping - landscaping with plants that need significantly less water - in an effort to cut down on waste.

Waste prevention extends to other aspects of our lives. Managing our yards so they create less trash includes leaving grass clippings on the lawns; planting slow-growing shrubs and trees that require less water and trimming; spreading clippings and leaves around planted areas to keep down weeds and keep in moisture; building a backyard compost pile for yard trimmings and kitchen scraps; and starting a worm bin to convert food waste into high-quality potting soil.


Using products or materials over and over in its current form is a good way to cut back on waste. In a affluent society such as ours, it is not unusual to find appliances and furniture in the trash.

People value whatever free time they have, so nobody wants to spend any time making repairs. Often times, however, all an item needs is a minor fix to be fully functional again.

There are a number of ways consumers can help:

1. Purchase rechargeable batteries.

2. Opt for washable cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.

3. Select washable plates and cups instead of the disposable kind.

4. Use razors with replaceable blades.

5. Instead of using foil and plastic wrap, use plastic containers with lids.


Recycling is convenient in Orange County as most areas use recycling bins as part of the weekly trash pickup. But it is important that people remember not to put any garbage in the recycling bins, as the garbage will contaminate the contents and render them unrecoverable.

There are more ways we can take an active part in the county's recycling efforts:

1. Select products that can be recycled locally or that contain recycled materials.

2. Purchase items in refillable or reusable containers.

3. Shop at yard sales and used-item stores.

4. Contact your trash-collecting agency or the city recycling coordinator for a list of materials suitable for recycling bins.

Every little effort we put in as individual members of the community has a collective major impact on the county's waste-management effort. "Simply adding two pounds a week of recyclable materials to our bins will help achieve a 50 percent reduction of trash from our landfills," Hull said. So be a smart consumer. Reduce, reuse and recycle. The expression, "Waste not, want not," not only makes good sense, but good cents as well.


Gable Top cartons reduce Los Angeles school district waste problems

by Rocky Y. Buencamino

(This article is is about a creative composting program. Rocky wrote it as a press release and for her company's intranet. Photos - top to bottom -- 1. Mar 02. Rocky, Mitzi Ambion, and Shella Navarro visited Brenda Martinez in Southampton, UK. 2. Mar 02. Tussaud Wax Museum, London. 3. Copenhagen, Oct 00. Rocky with our HS teacher and local resident Ms Valera.).

Composting is nothing new to many people. But compost made with used milk cartons is definitely a creative contribution to the solution to some of the solid waste problems that face most schools in the US.


Los Angeles District schools endorse milk carton recycling program

In the spring of 1997, 240 schools in South Central Los Angeles became participants in a unique milk carton recycling program called "Cartons to Compost".

This program called for the collection of empty gable top milk cartons from participating schools by waste haulers who then mixed the collected cartons with green waste and other organics, before delivering the collected waste to the compost facility.

The facility then either sold the fresh compost in bulk for agricultural use, or bagged them for sale to nurseries, landscapers and gardening centers.

Schools involved in the Carton to Compost program could also take back some of the compost to beautify their school gardens and landscapes, as well as improve their athletic fields. This is a definite bonus for the schools, many of which lacked enough green space and flora for the kids to play in and appreciate.

The program continues today and had received much praise and publicity. Most recently, the Superintendent of Schools in LA gave a plaque of recognition to the first school in the US to participate in this program, the national model for other schools, Raymond Avenue Elementary School.

During the awards ceremony, the School Principal, Mr. Victor Kimbell received the plaque on behalf of Raymond Elementary and said...

"In a world where we use so many of our natural resources, we have a responsibility to recycle anything that can be recycled... and we have accepted responsibility here at Raymond Avenue Elementary by composting our milk cartons. We waste so much in our schools, but now, we're giving something back to the earth instead of depleting it."

Principal Kimbell and his school also received high praise from another speaker during the event, Mr. Andy Lipkis, a spokesperson for the environmental group, TreePeople. In his speech to the kids, Mr. Lipkis said...

" This is a breakthrough. Instead of more trash in the landfill...Instead of more canyons being eaten up... Instead of our precious animals losing their homes to trash, you've helped save animals, saved their homes, by recycling these milk cartons and feeding them back to the trees. This is so important and I want to thank you for that and for your leadership."

The positive feedback on this environmental activity has also earned Raymond Elementary the new nickname "Marvelous Raymond". A name that the students and school administrators are proud to bear.

A Legislative Challenge

The state of California passed legislation that requires all communities to reduce their waste by 50% in the year 2000. Though this legislation exempts school districts, many districts decided to comply with this waste reduction mandate.

Compared to other solid waste produced in schools, milk cartons are of an insignificant amount to the overall school waste stream, but still the LA school district wanted to meet this challenge and approached Tetra Pak's Pomona office looking for an environmental disposal system for their cartons.

Milk cartons are made primarily of paperboard, an efficient economic and environmentally friendly material ideal for composting. The idea of composting them though did not occur instantly. Earlier recycling efforts with the district were unsuccessful, due to high levels of contamination. So the team from Tetra Pak Pomona had to investigate various ways that would not only be easier but also economically feasible.

The thought of composting the cartons did not come up right away, but it is one idea that has proved to be a boon to schools & their communities.

A Collaborative Solution

The success of the Cartons to Compost program is mainly due to the joint cooperation between the public and private sectors involved in the program: The Los Angeles Unified School District - this district is the second largest school district in the US; Waste Management, Inc. is the waste hauling company that brings the collected materials to the processing site; San Joaquin Composting is the compost facility; and Tetra Pak, a Swedish multinational packaging and processing company that provides packaging for liquid and dry food.

The most important factor in this collaborative scheme though are the kids for they are the ones that conscientiously empty their milk cartons and toss them into a recycling bins for collection.

For the Los Angeles Unified School District, a total of about 8 - 10 tons of milk cartons are collected from their schools every month for composting, with collections done 3-4 times a week. The cost for the composting process is borne by the school district through their contract with the waste hauler. The composter sells the compost in bulk at a cost of about $27 per ton.

Cafeteria to Compost - expanding the solution

Although the LA Unified School District is only collecting gable top milk cartons for composting, other schools districts, in other States, have expanded the idea to include different organic materials.

In Plano, Texas and Wichita, Kansas there are school districts that collect the majority of their cafeteria waste stream, including residual food & soiled paper, to be mixed with their milk cartons for composting.

This takes the composting concept to a higher level and one that is more ideal since it means collecting all school organics. This would then divert almost 80% of a school's solid waste away from landfills.

As Debbi Dodson, Tetra Pak's California Environmental Coordinator says..

"The cafeterias to compost program extends the classroom into the lunchroom and is an important tool in teaching our students to become better environmental citizens."

More programs for the future

Aside from Texas & Kansas other composting programs are slowly scattering around the US such as Washington and Oregon. But majority of the programs are concentrated around the West Coast. In fact, a pilot program is about to be launched in the San Francisco area that will involve residential communities.

The compost program for San Francisco is unique as it uses household food waste, combined with paper and the milk cartons. Apparently, many of San Francisco's residents do not have garbage disposal units in their homes. This means that they dump more of their waste in landfills. But since the California Mandate that requires 50% reduction of waste in 2000, their communities are now desperate to find a solution that fits their needs.

For this program larger milk cartons will be recommended for use - the half gallon gable top carton. The residents are supposed to collect their food and paper waste in the half gallon cartons so that these can then be transported to the composting facility for processing.

Once the San Francisco program rolls out in 2001 it is expected to cover over 250,000 households.

A valuable lesson

Composting used milk cartons teaches children a valuable lesson in understanding that to preserve our environment for the future, we have to take care of how we use our resources today. And by finding a way to re-use and have a second use for milk cartons, we're helping to maintain the balance of our eco-system just a little bit better.

(For a videotaped copy of the "Cartons to Compost Program", please contact Dave Perry, Director of Communications, Tetra Rex 847-465-7090.)

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Let's close the loop!

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Latest page update: 11.10.2003

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