Recycling Roadblock

Recycling Roadblock

Michael Morones

A full recycle bin of paper in the Prairie Ridge library waits for its contents to be thrown in the trash. Prairie Ridge has not recycled paper or plastic in recent years.

Prairie Ridge prints about 625,000 copies each month and uses 30% of all the paper consumed by District 155, according to Mr. Breeden, PR’s Technology Integration Specialist. Typically, one student receives 8 paper handouts a day. That’s 1,440 sheets of paper a year for just one student. Multiply that by the sum of the entire student body and you come out with a staggering 2,304,000 sheets of paper being used and thrown away every year. Obviously, we have a problem.

We don’t recycle, and that’s just unacceptable. The amount of waste we produce in paper alone, not to mention plastics and other recyclable materials, is devastating. Because she believes so strongly in recycling, library paraprofessional Mrs. Stanton, takes recyclable materials home. “When we recycle at Prairie Ridge, we promote environmental stewardship and do our share to support the community as responsible and conscientious citizens,” stated Mrs. Stanton, pointing out our moral obligations as caring, environment-mindful human beings.

So how did this whole mess begin? It started with the waste management company that picks up our garbage every month. However, before we delve into that, let me share the breakdown on our old recycling program. Students from Mr. Senese’s Environmental Science class took turns collecting the recycling around the building during their free periods four years ago. At first it was just paper, but they knew that our school also disposed of a large amount of plastic. Henceforth, plastic too became part of the weekly pickup. It soon turned out that the added material proved to be too much for the students and it was left to the janitors.

Since the janitors saw the waste actually being picked up twice a month, they noticed that the recycling and garbage were being thrown into the same truck and therefore, decided: what was the point in separating the garbage and recycling if they’re both just going to the dump?

Our once promising renewable waste project had become nothing more than an ugly inhibitor of the environment, and it stayed that way for four years.

Now student council has decided to do something about it. Growing frustration and disbelief led them to draft up a plan for a project similar to that of Mr. Senese’s original system. The proposal is still on the drawing board.

The basics so far: Members of student council will take turns picking up the recycling twice a week during their free periods and a new company will be called in (since the current company messed it up the first time). Still yet to be determined is if paper and plastic will both be part of the recycled materials. The plastic was what caused the original plan to fall apart. However, there are a greater number of students in student council than in environmental science. Hopefully, the added amount of students will be able to handle both paper and plastic. If not, then are we just supposed to continue throwing plastic away? There’s just too much of it to ignore.

If the kids can’t handle all the materials, will it, again, rest on the janitors’ shoulders? Whose responsibility is it to greenly dispose of our garbage? Some people will argue that recycling should be a natural part of the system at our school. Others feel that the students need to be a part of the process in order to experience a calling opportunity for leadership, growth, and collaboration among their fellow peers.

Among all these options hides the most important problem. Is it in the budget? An extra-large size bin will be needed to be picked up outside the school once or twice a month, every month for the rest of the school-year. That can become expensive. So if it’s not in the budget, what lengths are the students here at Prairie Ridge willing to go to in order to raise the money to make PR a more efficient facility? If the project is not in the budget I will personally be starting different fundraisers so that the recycling at PR can become a reality.

However, hopefully, student council’s plan is a success. They “would like to have the project begin after Thanksgiving,” stated Mr. Karlblom during a short interview about the prosperous ideal.

Recycling is not a question. It is not a matter of “when” and “how much.” It is a matter of our duty as humans who share this planet with millions of other species that rely on the earth just as much as we do. Prairie Ridge has existed too long without a recycling program. We have wasted millions of materials over the years within our school alone. It’s about time we showed we care. It’s about time we gave back.