"I like it because we're helping the universe and we're being responsible."
It's a tall order for a Friday, but Damien Otero, a third grader at PS 188 on the Lower East Side, speaks with conviction as he points to the composting bin in his school cafeteria. Otero is a Cafeteria Ranger, one of several lunchroom leaders who helps their fellow students throw their trash away into the appropriate sorted bin.
It's not as simple as setting up a five-bin station in any cafeteria. Cafeteria Culture outreach director Rhonda Keyser said when they first arrive at a school, they start by teaching the students Garbology 101, which Keyser described as "the journey of our garbage and the environmental injustice along the way." The kids also learn about the importance of sorting waste correctly, so that recyclables end up in a recycling center and organic waste can be turned into compost.
Marilyn Otero (pictured above), a sixth grader, has started noticing environmentally negligent behavior outside of her school, as well.
"When I walk outside, I see there’s a whole bunch of bottles and plastic bags everywhere in the streets. When it rains, it pushes all that trash down that drain, and that’s how it ends up in the pipes and water," Otero said. "People litter a lot."
Otero says her family is going to start recycling at home, now that she's learned about sorting waste at school.
Read and listen to the full segment on WNYC.org ->