High school participants in the CSWD Waste War Week are pictured sorting trash, compost and recyclable materials on Thursday, May 7. (Photo by Philip Patry)

High school participants in the CSWD Waste War Week are pictured sorting trash, compost and recyclable materials on Thursday, May 7. (Photo by Philip Patry)

Let the trash talking begin.

Milton middle-schoolers officially create the least amount of waste in the cafeteria and in classrooms, results from a school-wide competition show.

The district participated in Chittenden Solid Waste District’s Waste War Week last week, a friendly battle where each school competed to throw out less “true trash” and to correctly sort compost and recyclable materials from a day’s worth of waste.

The middle school took the crown – actually a trophy made of recyclables – when their waste from classrooms and the cafeteria was weighed in pounds, said Brooke Gannon, farm-to-school coordinator.

Kids donned gloves and picked through piles of trash dumped on a tarp outside, a truly hands-on activity that shows who sorts best.

The waste war also highlighted where improvements can be made. At the high school alone, students found silverware, headphones and 10 pounds of untouched fruit in the trash.

“There were a lot of conversations between the kids just shocked about what people are throwing in the trash, mindlessly,” Gannon said.

Other times, it appeared, students thought they were recycling, even if the jars and bottles they tossed were dirty. Gannon knows now she needs to educate about rinsing plastic and glass before they’re recycled.

This year’s event showed gains, too: Elementary school students threw away 60 percent fewer items in the trash, compared to last year, and middle-schoolers decreased their total trash by 36 percent since last fall, Gannon’s data shows.

This was the high school’s first event. Gannon hopes to continue the trash audits annually.

“We start these systems, and we want to see that they’re working,” she said. “If they’re not, we can change them.”