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The Daily Tar Heel

Middle school students take on composting

A group of eighth-graders who were once digging through trash is now speaking in front of the Chapel Hill Town Council.

The team from Phillips Middle School, who call themselves the Trash Terminators 2.0, want to spread the word about the benefits of composting on a local level.

When the group spoke to the council last week, they talked about the great success they had with their recycling plan and proposed a new idea for municipal composting.

“The mayor seemed really interested and he was very encouraging,” said team member Vincent Chen.

Last year, the Trash Terminators 1.0 won the national Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge with a classroom project.

They sorted through all of the trash their classmates threw away and focused on eliminating the amount of liquids in the trash and recycling.

Two of the three original members of the team moved on to high school, but team member Rohan Deshpande gathered a group of other classmates to keep the legacy alive.

Deshpande said recycling is an important first step to master before moving on to composting.

“With the Trash Terminators 1.0, we had to set a foundation and encourage people to stop before throwing everything in the trash,” he said. “You have to learn to recycle, then you can start diverting to other things. That’s what we are doing with the Trash Terminators 2.0.”

The Trash Terminators are once again in the running for the We Can Change the World Challenge national title and have put composting bins in their school to cut down on waste.

The bins will both help the environment and save county money that would be spent on shipping trash miles away to the landfill. Chapel Hill has sent its trash to a Durham landfill since the Orange County Municipal Solid Waste Landfill closed in June 2013 .

At the Town Council meeting on Jan. 13, the team pointed out that large cities have composting plans and encouraged Chapel Hill to look into similar plans.

Town Council member Lee Storrowsaid such a plan would be exciting for a small town like Chapel Hill and it would reflect how much the community values the removal of waste.

“It’s great to see what young people are doing in the community,” he said. “Lots of conversations have been started about these programs over the last few years, and it’s nice to be able to think creatively about a potential option.”

The team also shared results from a survey about public knowledge of local composting with the council, but team member Graeme Zimmermann said they need responses from many more people for the survey to be accurate.

The Trash Terminators plan to meet with Carrboro mayor Lydia Lavelle soon to discuss the same issues.

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