Recycle and reuse, stop the abuse

Claire Benton, Front Page Editor

Every classroom in our building has two specific things in common: a garbage can and a recycling bin.

As a building of more than 2,000 people, we put massive amounts of waste into those bins.

In one month, our lunchroom puts out several tons of food waste. In one day, the AP U.S. History teachers hand out enough paper to “kill the Brazilian rainforest,” as they like to joke.

What I am really getting at is where this waste ends up.

Every year, Americans use more than 90 million tons of paper and paperboard according to the Technical Association for the Worldwide Pulp, Paper, and Converting Industry (TAPPI), . That averages out to 700 pounds of paper products, per person, per year.

However, the average American should not need to consume such a tremendous amount.

It is a scientific fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The Sun. Not you.

Yet humans around the world and in HHS behave as though this planet was created solely for their use.

Teachers in the school hand out paper every day, perhaps without considering the consequences. Though printing paper will not single-handedly kill the world’s trees, in turn not recycling that product of the Earth, putting into a circle of reusable matter, is a big deal.

Students have received paper handouts from their teachers since the first day of kindergarten, so they should be in the habit of recycling by now.

HHS’s problem is that, somehow, a large portion of its students and several teachers are still not in the habit of recycling.

So if you are someone who feels misinformed or has a hard time recycling, here you go: paper can be recycled, as long as it is not plastic coated or has food on it. If you have a plastic item to discard, there is a super cool triangle thing on the bottom to indicate that is is recyclable.

Once you have determined your item is indeed meant for recycling, locate a blue bin (similar in shape and size to a garbage bin) with that super cool white triangle thing. Place your recyclable item in the bin. And, with that, you have recycled.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), roughly 55 percent of our trash ends up in landfills. Problems with landfills include that they can toxicate the groundwater, they make up one fourth of the methane emissions in the entire world, and the pollution created by transporting trash to these sites harms the environment.

Conversely, recycling has many environmental benefits.

Recycling by its own definition saves potential space in landfills from being filled. National Geographic reported that creating products from recycled materials as opposed to new materials uses up to 98 percent less energy.

HHS should be adapting to the current worldwide environmental crisis, but that only works if every person in our high school actively participates. Making use of our recycling bins is the easiest step to becoming a greener school.

People of HHS make decisions to save and to squander our planet every minute of every school day, whether they realize it or not. What we need to do more often is to choose Earth – starting with recycling.

For some strange reason, I have noticed a widespread belief around HHS that we do not actually recycle. Students and teachers alike throw their recyclables into garbage cans and claim that it does not matter, that the janitors dump them into the same bin anyways.

To dispel the rumor that HHS does not recycle, fellow Royal Page writer Anne Goodroad, senior, and I did some investigating. We began by talking to Ernie.

Ernie Bonkowske, head custodian, has been working in the school district since 1976. According to Ernie, we recycle.

“The janitors dump some of [the garbage and recycling] together, and when they get back to the dumpster, they sort it,” Bonkowske said.

The problem with dumping your garbage in whichever bin you feel like is that the recycling plants cannot use those mixed with trash. Bonkowske is worried that Dick’s Sanitation, the company HHS uses for recycling, will soon not accept our waste.

“I don’t think the students care. There’s a lot of people who won’t [recycle] unless I’m standing right there, telling them what to do,” Bonkowske said.

I am not saying that we as a school need to stop using papers and plastics whatsoever or shut down our electricity, but we should make an effort to reduce HHS’s footprint as is within our reach.

Not everyone in HHS ignores their responsibility to Earth, but too many do. If you’re like me and you move those plastic bottles from the garbage to the recycling, thank you.