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Oneka is an elementary school in the Hugo area serving 2nd through 5th grades.


Oneka Elementary produces about 215 pounds of waste in its cafeteria each day, including about 350 milk cartons a day.

They wanted to find better ways to manage that waste. Working with a BizRecycling Recycling Expert and Washington County staff, White Bear Lake School District developed a plan to recycle better at Oneka Elementary.

How We Helped

Our Recycling Expert visited the school and evaluated their waste streams. The school was producing about 215 pounds of food waste every day, and generating about 350 milk cartons. Although about 80 pounds of the food waste was being recycled, none of the milk cartons were. This was a big opportunity for improvement.

Working with our Recycling Expert, Oneka Elementary applied for a BizRecycling Grant. The grant money helped them buy new stainless steel sorting tables for the cafeteria. To help train children and staff, they created an informational video. They also trained lunchroom staff to help and observe children with the sorting table.


Oneka Elementary’s new sorting tables were a great success. Food waste recycling increased from 80 pounds to 160 pounds a day. That food waste is now going to feed 32 hogs on a local farm.

Oneka Elementary also began recycling milk cartons, amounting to over 62,000 cartons a year. Recycling their milk cartons creates enough recycled pulp to make to make about 300 reams of paper. 

With both these recycling programs in place, the school now diverts 87% of its cafeteria waste from landfills. The cafeteria now produces a mere 28 pounds of waste a day; that’s less than one ounce per student!

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