Following the recent issues surrounding the lack of recycling in Sarasota County Schools, students, staff and parents are not giving up in their fight to get back recycling. Families and teachers alike have contacted the district office, hoping to work with the school board to improve recycling in our school system.
When, at the end of 2017, China stopped accepting most of the United States’ recycling, the recycling system fell into disarray. Now, the majority of school recyclables are getting thrown in the trash, largely due to the contamination of potential recyclables by food being improperly disposed of into recycling bins. The collectors used to take this contaminated material, but now that selling to China is no longer an option, the recycling requirements are much stricter. Schools have a lot of potential recycling, so if all of these items are thrown into the trash, it has a very negative effect on the environment.
Involved students, parents, and teachers have been attempting to work alongside the school board to resolve this issue and have reached some success, however, it has been made more difficult with the recent resignations of the Superintendent and Director of Communications. Concerned parents are having to explain again the situation before continuing the conversation. Currently, the school board is looking at Earth Day to begin taking initiative in improving the recycling system, but there is still a possibility for a change to be made earlier than this.
Another priority is making sure people are aware of the issue. Over the summer, the Student Environmental Alliance Group recorded public service announcement type videos to be played for elementary students across the county, which will hopefully be approved and released soon.
When it comes to Pine View, progress is also being made. As of last week, there are recycling bins in every classroom, a policy that was not previously in place. These bins are single-stream, meaning that everything goes into the same bin rather than separating paper and plastic.
“I made some signs to indicate that it is still a single-stream system, so it’s only regular paper, empty plastic bottles, and empty aluminum cans; those are the only things that can go into the recycling bin. We’re hoping students and teachers really follow that rule so that there is no contamination, otherwise, it’s gonna be put in the trash,” eighth-grade life science teacher David Yotsuda said.
Environmental awareness clubs were instrumental in these developments. The middle school Global Green Group (G3) originally raised money for the classroom recycling bins. They, along with Yotsuda, were the ones who took the initiative this time around, too.
G3 is putting together a recycling PSA type video to be shown to the elementary and middle school students, along with the high school Go Green Club who is creating a PSA video for high school. These clubs typically strive to bring environmental awareness to Pine View in many ways, from school cleanups and the walking school bus, but currently, improving the recycling system is their main goal.
These solutions will work for now, but unless something changes with China’s policies, the United States will most likely have to start processing its own recyclables.
“That’s really where the next step for the United States is, to put the infrastructure in to take the recyclables and create other products using the recyclables,” Yotsuda said.
For more information on recycling issues, check out the newest Blue and Gold episode.