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Oct. 8, 2009

Pitching in when pitching out: improving our recycling

by Philipa Friedman, Print Managing News Editor
Recycling ideas is easy. It's coming up with new ones that can be tricky. Unfortunately, it appears that Blair's recycling program is neither new nor recycled; it's just in need of improvement.

Three years ago, Blair only recycled about 20 percent of our recyclable waste due to contamination and laziness. Our recycling program was the awkward kid sitting in the corner with a dunce hat while all the well-behaved students laughed. In short, Blair was, well, garbage.

In some ways, that's still true, but the Green Club, the improved group stemming from SGR Green, is attempting to make Blair an eco-friendly institution. But to make their attempt successful, the club will need more than a new name - it will need some serious help from the student body.

Beginning in mid-October, Green Club sponsors Lisa Hack and Karen Shilling will train their students to sort the school's recyclables in order to reduce contamination. While this is an excellent idea in principle, Green Club simply does not have the necessary manpower to accomplish the task. Twenty kids traipsing around the school once a week to sort bottles isn't going to make enough of a difference in the long run. What the club needs is more resources. And that means more people need to care.

The main problem here is a simple lack of effort on the part of most Blair students. It's not because we don't care about the environment or, worse, have some deep-rooted dislike for Mother Nature. It's just that we're not willing to make the effort. This careless attitude is the fundamental problem that holds us back from having the best recycling program in the county.

Blair is a school of more than 2,600 students. And 2,600 students produce a heckuva lot of waste. Just think: if every student at Blair throws away a plastic bottle, a lunch tray and three handouts every day, that makes…well, a lot of trash. If we could recycle even half of that, which we haven't yet been able to do, think how much less waste would end up rotting in a landfill. Instead of hurting us, having more students should help us. We have the manpower to do something about it. What we seem to lack is the motivation.

But perhaps this assessment is a little harsh. After all, Blair's recycling program has improved drastically in the past several years. Blair's grade in recycling went from an F for Fail in October 2006 to a B for Better in January 2009, according to data provided by the MCPS School Energy and Recycling Team. Sure, a B might mean that only 41.7 percent of our recycling is actually going to recycling plants, but hey, don't knock progress, right?

According to Shilling, the recent improvement can be attributed to the recycling bin and lid initiative. There is now at least one bin in every hall and block of school and three receptacles in each classroom: one for trash, one for bottles and cans and a tall one for mixed paper that members of the Green Club have nicknamed a "slim jim." Each of these three bins has a specialized lid to fit the materials are meant to go in that bin, be it bottles, cans or paper.

The lid initiative is a fantastic idea. We are adolescents. We do not want to walk seven miles in the snow and ford deep rivers in order to properly dispose of a plastic water bottle. And what could be easier than just fitting the bottle in the correct hole? Round hole, round bottle, bim bam boom! The problem of lagging motivation is virtually eliminated by simple convenience.

It's obvious that our recycling program isn't as dismal as it might be. In fact, it may even be possible to remove the proverbial dunce hat of three years ago and start afresh. Unless we strive to reduce the amount of our waste that ends up in a landfill, we could easily create the biggest carbon footprint in the county. The Green Club is only a few people, but if the whole school bands together, we can make a real difference. So put the right waste in the right bins. The opportunity is right there - all we have to do is seize it. Or, in this case, seize our "trash" and recycle it.



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