A five-step approach to revitalizing recycling

Dec. 14, 2006, midnight | By Becca Sausville | 12 years, 7 months ago

Renewing recycling program requires school-wide participation

Put cans in the yellow bin. Paper in the blue bin. Garbage goes in the gray.

While these directives may seem simple, Blair's recycling program is
failing. But with these five steps suggested by our own building
services, the prospect of a working recycling program can become a
realized eco-goal and an indication of school pride.

Step one: Education

Actually implementing an effective program means that Blazers need to
understand why recycling is important. But many students don't know
that mixing aluminum cans with garbage is detrimental to the
environment. Recycling enables us to reuse materials and it prevents
us from wasting valuable natural resources. Instead of mining more
raw materials to make new cans, we could melt down existing cans and
avoid further environmental depletion. This is a crucial, seeing as
how the average American disposes of 4.5 pounds of materials each day,
generating 245 million tons in 2005, according to the EPA.

To convey this message, Blair could launch a Recycling Week at the
beginning of each school year in order to raise awareness. Each day
of this week, a different component of the recycling program could be
presented, either on InfoFlow or Silver Chips Online — which products
go where, for example.

Step two: Cooperation

As they try to come up with a recycling plan, building services
workers have complained about general student apathy. Too often,
people dismiss recycling as another one of maintenance's many duties.
However, custodians do not, nor should they have to, go rummaging
through trash to separate recyclables.

To build cooperation, students need to show more pride in the
building. We could achieve this through combining Recycling Week with
a spirit week, during which students receive prizes for the best
costumes crafted from recyclable materials.

But without an organized program to accompany these events, it is
difficult for people to get involved. Therefore we must make
recycling more convenient.

Step three: Organization

Building services has proposed a plan to place three bins, one each
for cans, paper and garbage, in every hallway of the school.
Individual classrooms would have smaller receptacles, and teachers
would dispatch students to empty these in the larger hallway
containers twice a week during a specified block.

It would be the responsibility of the students to sort the materials,
the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that the classroom
containers are emptied during the designated block and the
responsibility of building services to clear the large containers.
With this organized method, the effort is spread across the entire
Blair community, making success a common goal, not just the duty of
one group.

Step four: Implementation

While MCPS requires recycling — county wide policy mandates that 50
percent of all solid waste material must be recycled — it does not
adequately provide for the implementation of recycling programs. Each
28-gallon receptacle costs $18.30, with additional costs for lids.
Placing two of these bins in each hallway, in addition to a standard
gray garbage can, would be expensive.

Nonetheless, it must become a priority. It is impossible for a
recycling program to succeed without the proper receptacles.

Step five: Incentives

Because a successful program requires effort and time, participants
deserve rewards for their hard work. Moreover, students may be more
inclined to recycle if they have prize incentives. This spirit of
friendly competitiveness worked in last month's canned-food drive, so
there could be a monthly prize for the hallway that recycles best.

It's easy to shrug off an issue that doesn't seem to affect you
personally. But if students and staff members saw recycling as more
than a dream, then a new program would succeed.

The overflowing garbage cans and trash strewn everywhere belie
students' school pride. Recycling has been an embarrassment for far
too long. It is time to reshape the program — not just for the sake
of the environment, but as an expression of pride in our building.

Quick tips

Curious about products you can reuse or recycle? Check out these ideas:
• Save and reuse boxes or other packaging items.
• Use plastic bags from stores or newspapers as liners for small
garbage cans or to carry your lunch.
• Use paper bags from the grocery store to cover textbooks.
• Refill plastic bottles with water instead of wasting sealed bottles of water.
• Many stores, including Office Depot, offer savings in return for
empty ink cartridges instead of just throwing them out.

What's your recycling IQ?

True or false:
1. Plastic bottle lids are recyclable.
2. Newspapers are not recyclable.
3. Juice boxes are not recyclable.
4. Plastic food containers are recyclable.
5. Styrofoam is not recyclable.


1. False. In Montgomery County, only the bottle is recyclable. Caps
should be placed in the garbage, as they can jam machinery.
2. False. Newspapers can be remade into other paper products.
3. True. In some cities, officials break down juice boxes, but
Montgomery County recycling plants cannot handle their clear plastic
4. False. These are usually contaminated or cannot be processed.
5. True. Foam packaging is trash because it is hard to reuse.
However, some packaging stores reuse packing peanuts, so the next time
you get a present from a distant friend, take your peanuts to the Mail
Boxes, Etc. or to another local pack-and-ship retailers.

Becca Sausville. Becca is a senior who is keeping the dinosaur dream alive. She loves Silver Chips a lot, possibly more than life itself. More »

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