South’s Key Club and SWE combat lack of recycling through student initiative

Imra Taduddin and Eliza Schloss, asst. features editor

“Can you recycle that?” reads a sign posted above the trash cans in the west cafeteria. Below the bolded question lies a list of recyclable materials. Yet, peering into the garbage directly below, one may find plastic water bottles piled up, taking the shape of a mini-landfill. In a non-scientific Oracle-conducted survey, just 16 percent of 226 surveyed students said they make a conscious effort to recycle at school.

According to Chet Bachula, Maintenance Department head, South’s current recycling program involves the separation of all trash at a separate location from school and has been in place for a number of years. However, Bachula believes that with increased student effort, this separation and the cost of doing so can be reduced.

“[Waste management does] try to collect as much [recyclable material] as possible out of the regular trash,” Bachula said. “If the students help out in getting the recycling into the [designated] recycling bins […] it’s going to save money, time and energy that is used to divvy out the regular garbage.”

Sophomore Sophie Stark believes that South students are too lazy to separate their trash from recycling and may not see the positive effects recycling provides the environment.

“When I was younger in elementary school, [we were taught about the benefits of recycling] and the teachers would kind of watch [us] throw stuff away [and say], ‘No, that goes in the recycling bin,’” Stark said. “There [were] the blue and the green [bins], and I think the colors helped.”

In response to Stark however, Katheryn Woo, Key Club environmental leader, believes the separation and color coding of the bins would be a challenge as the recyclable materials can only be recycled if not contaminated.

“The only way that they can separate the recycling is if that piece of trash isn’t too dirty or messed up,” Woo said. “That’s the downside of it, everything gets mucky in the trash can, [prohibiting items from being recycled].”

As a school, South is currently planning to change its environmental impact, done by the future installation of recycling bins created in partnership with Society of Women Engineers and Key Club. According to Woo, these are no ordinary recycling bins due to their uniquely coded features.

“We’re working to add this sensor […] and we’re gonna wire it, code it so that when somebody throws something in the recycling bin it senses it and then makes a noise,” Woo said. “It could have a funny sound, it could have music like the Titan Fight song, it could have words saying, ‘Thank you for recycling.’”

According to Woo, plans are set to have three to four bins in the school, the first being in front of the Principal’s Office with installation before winter break of this school year. Woo has been preparing for the project to be revealed.

“I’ve been keeping my [plastic water bottles] for the past month just so that when we do finish the project we have something to put into it,” Woo said. “I already have this huge box [of water bottles], it’s crazy and kinda scary.”

According to Marina Madsen, also a Key Club environmental leader, it is difficult to brainstorm ideas on how to encourage recycling because of the potential extra work on the Maintenance Department. Madsen says it is hard to ensure that people recycle because there is no way to constantly monitor what is being thrown out throughout the school day.

“We did a glass bottle collection [initiative], because [even though] we have those bottle collectors in the cafeteria, lots of people just don’t use them,” Madsen explained. “We were trying to [encourage] that, but it’s obviously more difficult.”

The current recycling system doesn’t encourage active involvement of students at South, according to Woo. She hopes that in the future students will take initiative place their waste in the correct bins and participate in other recycling projects.

“Even though there is a system, it doesn’t feel right [that people don’t know they’re recycling],” Woo said.