Amphi Middle School helping environment and saving money - Tucson News Now

Amphi Middle School helping the environment and saving money at the same time

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A local school is helping to save the environment, and a lot of money too.

Amphitheater Middle School has begun using a machine to recycle its Styrofoam food trays.

The program started earlier this year and the district still is analyzing how much money it will save.

However, Amphitheater School District Food and Transportation Director Marc Lappitt says other Arizona school districts are realizing financial and educational benefits.

You might wonder why Amphi uses foam trays in middle schools in the first place?

It turns out, for some reason, middle-schoolers like to throw away the expensive plastic trays.

Lappitt says it happens all across the country.

He says the foam trays cost about three cents each. 

The Amphi Middle School lunch program also serves Prince Elementary School students.

Outside the middle school you'll find a machine that compacts the foam food trays and turns them out in lightweight blocks.

The district says, "No vapors. No mess."

A Phoenix company picks up the blocks for free and uses them to make things like picture frames and flower pots to be sold in stores.

The school district sees benefits in several places, but especially in the budget and in the classroom.

The children like the idea that, instead of just throwing something away, you can turn it into something else.

"I think it would be really cool because like if I recycled something I think it would really cool from one thing to a different thing," says second-grader, Naiemah Al-Rakabi.

"You're teaching kids about how to be environmentally responsible as well as the fact that, from a business standpoint, I utilize a half-person less in my dish room. I wash 700 less trays than I did a month ago and use that much less water and detergent," Lappitt says.

The Amphi Middle School lunch program now generates two 55-gallon bags of garbage a day, instead of the usual 14.

The district is charged for garbage pick-up on a per pick-up basis.

Lappitt says recycling will mean fewer garbage pick-ups and a lower garbage hauling bill.

The district hopes, eventually, to create enough blocks to sell them.

"Eventually, when there's enough critical mass of our schools and perhaps other districts, there'll be more value to that process. We'll be able to make money off the residual trays," Lappitt says.

The machine costs $13,000.

Lappitt says the district food service program is self-sustaining and he hopes to, little by little, buy a recycling machine for every school lunch site in the district. 

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