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Zero Waste
Zero Waste

Food & Garden Waste - Schools

Food Waste Prevention & Donation 

Avoid creating wasted food and donate any leftover food. Prevention and donation are best practices and are better for the environment than composting or anaerobically digesting waste. Learn about food waste prevention and food recovery here.

To reduce food waste in the cafeteria, schools should explore an Offer vs. Serve (OVS) model, which allows students to choose not to take menu items that they do not want to eat. See the updated OVS Guidance for more information.

For more ideas on how to reuse leftover food in your school, Visit here.

Cafeteria Composting

An average school in the District produces hundreds of pounds of organic waste each day. When schools sort in their cafeterias, food and organic waste gets turned into compost, which can be used to grow more food!

Non-DCPS schools can arrange to have organic waste collected by a private hauler. Talk to your administrators about the possibility of sorting in your cafeteria.

All DCPS schools are being phased into the cafeteria composting program. Check the organics hauling schedule to see if your school currently receives organics hauling services. Use this cheat sheet to sort correctly in a DCPS cafeteria.

On-Site Composting

Some schools with active school gardens have on-site compost bins, which they use to connect classroom learning with real-world science and sustainability concepts such as ecological cycles.

Some teachers also use classroom worm bins to educate students about vermicomposting. Start a classroom worm bin using Department of Parks and Recreation’s Classroom Worm Bin How-To Guide.

Schools can also visit a DPR Community Composting Cooperative or take a farm to school field trip to see composting in action.

Composting and Recycling for the Classroom

Want to connect composting with classroom learning? Explore curriculum-linked lesson plans written by DCPS teachers. You can also check out this list of DMV-area field trips related to composting, recycling, reuse, and nature.

DCPS Food and Garden Waste Map

To learn more about which DCPS schools are participating in recycling or have on-site compost bins, check out the DCPS Recycles! Interactive maps. The maps show which schools are on the DCPS Recycles! Honor Roll and where you can find on-site compost bins.

What Can I Compost?

DCPS schools currently participating in cafeteria Organics collection can refer to the list below.

For all other schools who have organic waste collection through a private hauler, please refer to the District’s list of compostables to learn which types of foodservice packaging can be composted and check with your collector to learn what is accepted and not accepted.