For Hays CISD, recycling is not a throwaway line

For the first time ever, every school in Hays CISD is taking part in a recycling and composting program, and officials believe the district is the only one in the nation that is recycling on such a scale.

"To our knowledge, they are the largest composting district, definitely in the state, and we believe in the country, to the best of our knowledge," said Jason Sanders, Texas Disposal Systems Recycling and Composting coordinator.

When Hays High School and Lehman High School implemented the program in August, Hays CISD became the only district with every school participating in both composting and recycling.

Rod Walls, Hays CISD facilities director, said Texas Disposal Systems, which provides waste services to the district's 22 schools, came to the district in 2010 with two options. The schools could either stay on the trash hauling program they had in place—one that would have cost $15,795 per month—or they could give the Green School Solutions program a try for $12,891 per month.

The program, which was introduced among four elementary schools and a middle school in 2010, aims to increase reclamation, recycling and repurposing efforts at Texas schools. Walls said TDS was reluctant to attempt the program at anything more advanced than an elementary school, but after one of the district's middle school principals insisted that her students have a chance with the program, the waste services provider relented.

Now every cafeteria in the district is equipped with "eco stations" for recycling, composting and landfill.

"A typical middle school was generating 12 bags of trash—big 55-gallon bags of trash—during a lunch period," Walls said. "Due to the fact that we're only putting trash in there and no recyclables, no compostables ... we've gone from 12 to two bags of trash."

Sanders said before the program was implemented, Hays High School and Lehman High School were producing 30 bags of trash every day, and now that number is down to four bags.

In September, Camino Real Elementary School in Kyle composted and recycled 12,671 lbs., making it the greenest elementary school in the district. Simon Middle School took the top spot among junior highs with 12,120 lbs. and Hays High School beat out Lehman for the top spot with 21,290 lbs.

Hays CISD Public Information Officer Tim Savoy said the program fits perfectly into the district's long-term plans. In 2009, parents, teachers and administrators came together to create a five-year strategic plan. The plan identified six strategies the district will implement during the course of five years. The sixth strategy identified was to "infuse instruction with environmental stewardship and integrate sound environmental practices into facility design, construction and operations."

"It's the right thing to do from the standpoint of being good stewards of our environment," Savoy said. "This is being good stewards of the trash we put out."

Hays CISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon said that until the last few years, there was "zero consciousness about recycling," but that has all changed.

"The work we're doing is fantastic, but the bigger strategic objective is to embed environmental consciousness into this next generation of citizens," Lyon said. "That's the goal. Hopefully when these kids graduate, take jobs, become leaders, this is embedded in the way that they look at things."