Campus recycling program needs improvements, student support

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The school’s lack of a campus wide recycling program means large amounts of reusable items are getting thrown away with food and other garbage. Administration, faculty and students need to work together to implement a broader strategy to reduce the school’s environmental impact.

Florida State University, as “parent school” in many aspects, has numerous waste removal areas around their campus, including garbage cans and various recycling bins. Their custodial staff and contracted recycling companies visit classrooms, offices and designated dumpsters weekly to collect used plastic, paper and cardboard. However, on this campus, garbage cans greatly outnumber recycling bins. This oversight severely limits students’ ability to properly dispose of recyclable materials.

Secondary Spanish teacher Salvador Guastella has taken the matter into his own hands by reaching out to fellow teachers about the issue. He has requested that high school teachers place recycling bins in their classrooms, and that they offer extra credit and service hours to any student who volunteers to empty the bin into the recycling container behind the cafeteria. FSU supplies the bins upon request to classrooms, yet only a few teachers actually have these bins in their rooms. Many students are still oblivious to the plastic problem.

“First, you’ve got to realize what you’re screwing up to be able to fix it,” Guastella said. “The earth is not just yours; it’s ours.”

One of the main challenges that teachers face in trying to increase recycling is that trash and other garbage that is not recyclable ends up within the recycling bins. No one wants the painstaking task of  digging through garbage to try and separate the rotten food and non-perishable items from the things that are able to get reused. In order to create a bigger impact, Guastella believes change must either start from the top down or the bottom up.

A top down solution would come from administration first. Administration would establish and enforce recycling areas on campus and promote an attitude among students that helps them take pride in making the world a better place. From the bottom up, the change in how the school recycles would have to begin with students or their parents. Whether top down or bottom up, this process will not work if just a couple of teachers are trying to make a difference.

“The thing citizens and students can do every day is to make choices that reduce waste,” Recycling and Sustainability Manager for Leon County  Tessa Schreiner said.

“Going shopping? Bring your own bags. Drinking water? Bring your own bottle. Going to the grocery store? Bring your own container.”

The future of the world relies on the environmental changes our generation makes today. If the school went all in on the recycling system already in place, many benefits would follow. A green school, which should be the ultimate goal, is a school that creates a healthy environment conducive to learning while saving energy, environmental resources and money. It is not up to just one person. The entire school as a whole needs to make the changes.

“The youth of today are going to feel the biggest impacts of climate change,” Schreiner said. “I feel like the best tactic to help people take this more seriously is find out what they care about. Do they like St. George Island? Well, unfortunately, St. George might be severely impacted by sea level rise in the next half-century. Do they like animals? Climate change will have drastic effects on habitat and livability for many species.”