By Amy Natarajan
At d.tech, recycling is an ominous word. No one dares utter it out of guilt, and trash is king. The grade clean-up initiative is a wonderful beautification project, but without even thinking twice, people throw things away that can easily be recycled.
“We have so few trash bins spread so far apart, many people just throw trash in the recycle bins because they don’t want to hunt down a trash bin,” said sophomore, Kevin Pines.
But here’s the big question: Does d.tech even have a recycling program?
In a conversation with Dr. Ken Montgomery, the executive director and co-founder of d.tech, revealed that the school’s “recycling program”, as it were, is taken care of by custodians, who . “come in later in the evening and recycle without any of our knowledge, like elves and the shoemaker.” Montgomery admits that “No one usually goes through it and sorts it out.” He says that he’s aware of d.tech’s aloofness towards recycling, admitting the school “doesn’t have a program, but has bins.”
That said, his vision to create the “greatest school in the world” also includes a line about recycling. “Green education should be encouraged now more than ever,” he says. “And it’s a really easy way to help the planet.” He says he has hopes that one day, d.tech will become a 100% waste-free school. So how can we work towards achieving this vision?
In a report conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) report, 80% of school waste are recyclable and compostable. We can make a monumental impact if we implemented a recycling program at d.tech, and it isn’t as hard as it sounds. One of the most important ways to begin recycling at school is to have separate containers for recyclable materials and waste. Isolating garbage and reusable items works best if the containers are clearly marked and kept beside each other with different color, such as black for trash and blue for recycling. Letting students design and decorate the bins with stickers and pictures gives them the creative freedom while promoting healthy habits.
Another good early step would be conducting an audit to identify the quantity and types of waste in each part of the school – classrooms, hangar, etc. This assessment would help identify where the school’s recyclables are most often generated, allowing for strategic placement of bins. Additionally, appointing a student recycling coordinator or support team could help jump start a school recycling program, and would be an effective way to raise awareness and encourage students to recycle. Another options is an after-school recycling club, which could include students, faculty, and parents. The club could set up a collection system, and begin hand-sorting refuse..
A survey of the student body revealed other ideas: “If someone did a song or jingle, it would be so funny,” Daniellee Benfica suggested. An ambitious attempt proposed by freshman, Yamini Prasad, was to “yell ‘RECYCLE!’ at anyone drinking something out of a bottle.” Kevin Pines recommended that the school “increase the number of trash and recycle bins considerably, and also have very good labeling on the bins.” To boost morale, junior, Joelene Latief had the idea of “making it into a game with a reward system. Not posters and spirit points, but something more worthwhile.”
With energy and environmental concerns top of mind in our society, recycling is an important first step to take. Starting an actual, working program at our school is a stepping stone to helping our planet and bettering ourselves. Initiating a program by yourself is incredibly hard, so gather up some pals and get out there! The best teams combine the efforts of students, teachers, principals, administrative staff, and parents who are all willing to help. But, even just a few dedicated people can make a big difference. Working together, the sky’s the limit.