As the school year begins, students at one Howard County school will be able to participate in an effort to make the county a little greener.
Pointers Run Elementary School, in Clarksville, became the first Howard County Public School to launch a food scrap collection program as students headed back to class Monday.
The initiative was inspired by a letter campaign from one fourth grade class last spring. Students in teacher Deborah Hantman's class wrote persuasive notes to county government and school system officials asking them to consider including their school in the county's food scrap composting program, which had expanded to the surrounding Clarksville community in November.
"It would be great if the students could get some kind of response so they know that their letters were received and that they have the power to make a difference," Hantman wrote in her own letter.
The county did respond, and Pointers Run students will now see bright yellow food scrap collection bins next to the recycling and trash bins in the cafeteria. Teachers will also have a composting bin in the staff lounge.
"The students here... realized that practicing waste reduction at school is just as important as at home," County Executive Ken Ulman said at the program's launch on Monday, the first day of school. "We agree. Their efforts show that it doesn't take long for good ideas to catch on and become part of everyday behavior."
"I am so glad to see our students taking action, and learning that when they work together toward a positive goal, they can make a difference," said Schools Superintendent Dr. Renee Foose.
About 10,000 Howard County homes now have the option of participating in the food scrap and yard trim composting program, a free service that works just like trash and recycling collection.
The composting program began as a pilot in Elkridge in 2011 before expanding to Clarksville last year. County officials said the program would continue to expand its service area to include another 5,000 homes later in 2014.
Officials said up to 400 tons of what was previously trash are now being diverted to composting piles at the county's Alpha Ridge landfill in Marriottsville, where the compost is used to make mulch and topsoil that the county can sell. Composting also saves Howard money, officials said: the county spends $38.50 per ton of compost processed at Alpha Ridge, while it costs $41.50 per ton to take trash to a landfill.