PITTSFIELD -- Recycling awareness is up at Pittsfield Public Schools -- thanks in no small part to the work of the district’s custodians.

And on Thursday, city officials and the Pittsfield School Recycling Steering Committee took time out to thank them during a custodian appreciation luncheon at Taconic High School.

The purpose of the event was not only to recognize the work that janitorial staff do all year round, but to particularly thank them for taking part in a pilot recycling program and recycling audit.

About 40 city school custodians attended the event along with Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi and Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless. Food service and cafeteria workers will be honored in a similar event on Aug. 29.

Back in the spring, Annie Stilts, education and outreach EcoFellow for the Center for EcoTechnology, conducted a study to gain a better sense of what kind of trash was being put out at the elementary and middle schools and how much of it could be recycled.

The rate of recycling success varied by school, with 14 to 50 percent of waste being made of recyclable materials but ending up in trash bins versus designated royal blue recycling bins placed in classrooms and common areas.

During the luncheon, custodial staff, who took out the trash and, in some cases, helped direct students and staff to recycle, shared their thoughts and feedback to improve the effort this school year.

"I think it’s a wonderful program," Bianchi said. "The custodial staff do a tremendous job with the schools; they always look good. They’re also an integral part with respect to successful recycling. Some people say it’s more work, but it’s the right thing to do."

The Pittsfield School Recycling Steering Committee includes Stilts; Bruce Collingwood, city commissioner of public utilities; Cynthia Grippaldi, education coordinator at CET; Jim Larrow, city director of custodial services; Tom Lennon of Republic Services (formerly BFI waste management); and Arlene Miller of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Miller said the team plans to work with leaders at each school building to get the word out about recycling early on in the school year.

"We also hope kids will lead from the ground up," Grippaldi said.

"The goal is to make the [school recycling] program a standard, to do outreach and make it sustainable," Collingwood said.