Teacher seeks grant to fund recycling efforts at WEGO


Photo by Sasha Baumgartner

The trash problem that is occurring around the high school concerns science teacher Suzanne Burchaki.

By Michelle Garcia and Sasha Baumgartner

West Chicago Community High School stopped recycling during the pandemic, but science teacher Suzanne Burchacki is working to bring change to the school.

Burchacki and Club Green once collected recyclables in the cafeteria after school hours; the organization stopped to focus on other contributions that would provide a wider impact around the school. Shortly thereafter, students in the school’s DLP program were tasked with collecting recycling each Friday. 

A snapshot of recycling statistics. (Photo by Leslie Fireman)

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the high school. When students returned to the building the following spring, recycling was no longer taking place.

The Wildcat Chronicle investigated the lack of recycling efforts at WCCHS last spring; in an interview with the newspaper staff, Dr. Will Dwyer indicated the school lacked “the manpower” to recycle, and that the task was not cost-effective for outsourced companies such as Groot.

“If they aren’t going to recycle, take the recycling bins out of the classrooms and stop lying to us,” said senior Ava Rostowsky.

Burchacki is hoping to renew the school’s recycling efforts; she recently applied for a grant that would provide WEGO with money to offset the costs of recycling.

Burchaki is working through a federal grant program that was set up when the Biden Harris administration came into office. The grant offers 55 million per year to schools throughout the country to help “implement a strategy to improve post-consumer materials management and infrastructure,” according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The plan – if the grant is awarded – is to implement the recycling efforts over the summer in 2023, when the school has the time to set up the equipment while students are not in session.

“This is an initiative the district is interested in, but it will take time and money to get the program started,” said Dan Oberg, Director of Business services for District 94.

Students – both past and present – have expressed their displeasure with the school’s lack of recycling.

“Our school must take serious action to improve. I would bring this issue up with the school board to convince them to begin recycling again because it is so integral to our society as a school and community,” said senior Fabricio Vargas. 

“Not recycling can technically mess it up for the future generations, so we for sure need to start recycling again. I’m very disappointed with that decision made by the school,” said senior Melanie Coss, referring to WCCHS’ decision to halt recycling efforts.

There is initiative and progress with regard to West Chicago Community High School’s recycling program; however, time and money are necessary to achieve the goal. With the help of Burchaki and a possible grant, there is now a chance that may happen next year.