Straight Outta the Landfill: A plan to reform recycling at THS

Straight+Outta+the+Landfill%3A+A+plan+to+reform+recycling+at+THS

By Sharon Shatananda

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This year at Tuscarora will be one of green revolution, a time to slash the trash, and follow the three arrows. No, this isn’t a reference to long-forgotten testing taking tips from elementary school. It’s a year-long effort by the Environmental Studies class, led by Ms. Westervelt, to drastically cut the amount of non-recyclable waste Tuscarora sends to the landfill.

        The school is switching to a method called “single-stream recycling,” according to Ms. Westervelt. This means that recycling just got easier for students, and hopefully more effective for everyone. Instead of using separate recycling bins in the classrooms, all recycling- paper, aluminum cans, and plastic- will be collected and shipped to single-stream recycling center in Manassas. There, the trash is sorted by machines and compressed into bales, all within a remarkable 10 minutes of arriving at the center. The sorting machines and recycling centers cannot do it all though, plastic grocery bags, take-away containers and cups, paper plates and napkins, and candy and chip wrappers, are non-recyclable and always go straight to the landfill.

But be careful of what is thrown into the recycling bin. Recyclable materials contaminated with leftover food or drinks, batteries, or other un-recyclable materials are automatically doomed to the landfill. “When the truck leaves Tuscarora, everything just gets taken to the landfill and dumped in the ground. Along with any hazardous materials. It’s pretty scary,” said Ms. Westervelt.

        The program at Tuscarora is headed by Environmental Studies students whose action project for the year is facilitating and educating the student body about the new recycling techniques. Look out for new labels and posters in classrooms and the cafeteria in the coming weeks which explain the new transition.

        A key component of the program is the plan to keep track of exactly how many tons of material THS is able to recycle. “At the end of this year, we will be able to say we have taken however many tons of material out of the landfill,” explained Ms. Westervelt, “we will also compare our results to other schools in the county” to see which school was able to recycle the most. The first weigh-in day is scheduled for November 16th, on America Recycles Day.