Teachers accuse recycling program of inefficiency

Oct. 24, 2001, midnight | By Kevin Chang | 19 years, 2 months ago

Critics claim mishandling of recyclable materials and widespread contamination

Some faculty members are criticizing Blair's recycling program because of questions regarding where the school's recyclables are being taken by the recycling company. Many are also concerned about contamination in recycling bins.

Some teachers voiced concern about the destination of Blair's recyclable materials after seeing trash trucks and dump trucks arrive at the school instead of recycling trucks. Each week, Blair fills two green dumpsters with recyclable materials. Reggie Tobin, Blair's engineer, described the amount of recyclable material as "tons of it."

Blair's recycling program, which began partial operations during the 1999-2000 school year and full operations last year, handles plastic soda bottles, aluminum cans, and most paper products. Food wrappers and used tissues cannot be recycled.

Many teachers and students are worried about contamination in recycling bins because contaminated material cannot be recycled, and the entire contents of a recycling bin must be discarded even if only one item from the bin is non-recyclable. Dirty bottles and cans and wet or dirty paper products are considered contaminated material.

The Faculty Coordinator for Recycling, Rick Moats, said that the main problem with the recycling program was contamination and that most of the material that was thrown away was contaminated material.

Moats said that he knew some recycling bins were being emptied into the trash but was unsure of whether any of those bins were unpolluted. He said that some students were carrying out unofficial "clandestine operations," in which they follow the recycling trucks to find out whether recyclables are being thrown away or not. He stressed the point that the students were not school-sponsored and referred to them as "curious citizens with licenses."

Blair's Business Manager, Anne Alban, acknowledged that a great deal of material from recycling bins was discarded as trash, but said that only the contents of polluted bins were thrown out. Building Services Manager James Brown also denied that any recyclable materials were being thrown away.

Social Studies teacher George Vlasits was one staff member who raised the issue of non-recyclable materials in recycling cans. Vlasits believes that contamination is a major problem, especially in hallway recycling cans. He said the vast majority of bins he looked in contained some form of non-recyclable material.

Moats does not consider companies throwing away recyclables to be the problem because the company that picks up Blair's recyclables, Waste Management Corporation, is paid to deliver recyclables to recycling facilities. The company has to pay to unload waste in landfills.

Moats believes that the program enjoys widespread support and is being hindered by just a few students who consider contaminating recycling bins fun or rebellious. He said that most contamination occurs "because someone poured his last ounce of Coke into the can because he's an [expletive]."

Alban agreed, saying "I've been really pleased, though I'm sure it's not perfect... lots of kids are very interested in the recycling program."

Junior Cory Choy, a member of SGR who was instrumental in starting the recycling, also blamed students. "It's very obvious that the student body is apathetic to the environment," he said.

Vlasits dismissed claims made by the administration that the recycling program is doing well because he claims that the administration will bend the truth to make themselves look good in the county's eyes. However, he did not place blame for the problem on the administration, saying "we don't even know if [the recycling companies] know if recyclables are going to the dump."

Several faculty members, including Vlasits and fellow Social Studies teacher David West, believe that a major part of the problem is that Blair's recycling bins resemble its trash cans. Vlasits said, "All you have to do is walk around and look in the bins... the system we've set up is not working." Moats agreed that the similarities could cause confusion.

West said, "I taught at another MCPS high school, where students come by every week to classrooms to empty the bins. That way, there was no need to leave unguarded bins in hallways."

Despite its problems, most staff and students were satisfied with the recycling program. Moats said that the program has few problems and has strong faculty support. He said, "I feel neither the need nor the inclination to watchdog the program." Alban said, "I think we have a really good start... we took it from being lazy to being very active."

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Kevin Chang. Kevin Chang was born on April 28, 1985. This makes him a bull, and coincidentally, a Taurus. Somehow, he ended up in the Magnet program at Montgomery Blair High School, where he is now a SENIOR! 03! Yes, he is a geek. He is often … More »

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