COSTA MESA — After finishing up his lunch, Jerry Pacheco recycled his cardboard tray and dropped his mushy brown banana into the orange compost collection pail.
Then the 12-year-old took a turn grinding up the uneaten food item with a shovel before making his way with his peers to the compost bins behind a fence.
"Worms eat the stuff and they poop it out," he said Wednesday, explaining how the bins work.
The College Park Elementary School sixth-grader is a member of the Costa Mesa school's Green Team. He helps run the daily zero-waste lunchtime program that challenges all students at the K-6 school to separate their trash for recycling or composting.
Jerry's work has earned him the Starfish Award, a districtwide recognition that was given to Jerry and nine other Newport-Mesa Unified students Jan. 10 by the school board. Jerry's family, teachers and principal were in attendance during the ceremony.