You recycled, but did you really?

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Photo Credit: Julia Rooney

The garbage dumpsters outside of the Sports Lobby serve as the pickup location for the school’s waste.

by Lilia Wood, Editor-in-Chief

Each classroom and hallway is required to have at least one garbage can and one recycling bin to promote an eco-friendly student body. Yet after school-hours, students receiving extra help, attending club meetings or preparing for their fall sports, have noticed that the garbage cans and recycling bins are sometimes combined into one large bag and thrown into the dumpster.

Students were quick to call a foul play on the treatment of their recycled materials, but the problem may have started with the student body, not the custodians working after school.

Ian Crawford, a senior, is a member of the environmental club.  He knows how important recycling is to our environment and said that he was “surprised and upset” that garbage and recycling container contents were being combined.  Yet Crawford understands that the end result may have earlier causes.

If recyclable items are very messy from whatever was in the items, the custodians are not going to sort through that type of thing.”

— Sandy Marinos, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds

“I don’t really blame them,” he said. “Most recycling bins already have trash in them.”

Sandy Marinos, the Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, understood the confusion and explained that the school’s custodians need to sort through recycling bins that can also be filled with waste.

“Custodians all know that they shouldn’t combine garbage and recycling,” Marinos said. “If recyclable items are very messy from whatever was in the items, the custodians are not going to sort through that type of thing.  The Aramark managers are constantly reminding their staff about the recycling guidelines.”

The staff and students are not always using the correctly labeled containers for their waste, so the custodians cannot clearly separate them into distinct piles. Trash has gone into the blue recycling bins, and recyclables have filled the trash cans.  In addition, many classrooms either have too many or too few bins that do not belong, causing confusion.

Photo Credit: Julia Rooney
The trash and recycling bins in the hallway have been misused in the past by the school body, resulting in custodians mixing the contents of both to dispose of them.

Glen Rock High School uses “single-stream recycling,” a term that indicates that all recycling products may be mixed together into a single collection.  The issue is when trash or waste join the mix.

“The custodians do not pick through the garbage to look for recycling,” Marinos explained. “It is not safe for them to do that. There can be sharp items down in the garbage, so we don’t want them to get hurt either. It is not always a clear case of the custodians doing the wrong thing.”

So is there a point of having two bins in each classroom?

According to Marinos, there is a purpose to having separate cans because the school continues to strive to have everyone separate the recycling from the garbage.

“I definitely think we should have separate cans,” Crawford said. “At least one for all recyclables and one for trash since the school is supposed to recycle all of its recyclables together.”

If the waste is all going to end up in the same dumpster and thrown into a landfill, I do not see a point of having separate cans.”

— Julian Bennett ('16)

Julian Bennett, a senior, thought that the distinction between the cans might be in vain.

“If the waste is all going to end up in the same dumpster and thrown into a landfill, I do not see a point of having separate cans,” Bennett, an AP Environmental student, said.

The Board of Education picks up the regular garbage everyday and the cardboard twice a week from the high school. The co-mingled recycling dumpster gets picked up four times a week by a private company. There is also specialty recycling for light bulbs, ballasts from lighting fixtures, old chemicals and paint.

“We need to continue to educate everyone to recycle. When we see people using the wrong cans, remind them to use the right container,” Marinos said.

“I think a good way to promote the way we recycle, as well as raise awareness about recycling in general, would be to have some assemblies and keep guidelines posted throughout the school,” Crawford explained.

Crawford is currently working on a grant application for $2,000 from Revamping Recycling, which is a grant program by Sustainable Jersey for Schools. The grant would help promote recycling in the school by having more school-wide assemblies and thorough recycling guides posted throughout the school.

“If the grant doesn’t work out though, for whatever reason, I still think we should make an effort to do these things since they really aren’t all that expensive,” he said.