[EDITORIAL] Recycling necessary at WCCHS, even if costly


Photo by Leslie Fireman

The Chronicle staff weighs in on the recycling – or lack thereof – at WCCHS.

Whenever you recycle here at school, you would probably expect that you are doing something good for the environment. But have you ever stopped to wonder where that recycling actually ends up? The answer might shock you.

In 2008, the Illinois General Assembly passed bill HB4159 the Solid Waste Management Act, which required that all school districts in the state periodically review their procedures in regards to recycling and waste reduction. This bill ensured that, if “economically or practically feasible”, schools must purchase either reusable and durable products, or products made from recycled materials. Sadly, this bill’s program only lasted through 2020.

Currently, although each of our school’s classrooms are provided with recycling bins, none of their contents are being recycled. 

“I feel terrible when I think about the school’s lack of effort,” said senior Charlene Bahnfleth.

In the past, students in some of the school’s special education (DLP) programs, along with staff, would make rounds throughout the building once each week to collect the school’s recycling bins from every classroom. The idea was implemented to assist the program’s students in developing valuable organization and life skills that they would eventually need to apply into future careers. After being sorted, the organized bins of recycled materials were then left to maintenance. 

However, since COVID struck, the program has apparently been abandoned. Students have witnessed the custodial staff dumping all recyclable materials out with the rest of our school’s trash, although several of the school’s staff members contacted for this article suggested that the program’s procedures remain in place. 

After deeper investigation, it seems the maintenance staff is working according to Director of Business Services Dan Oberg, who said, “Over the last 3 years, the program has diminished for multiple reasons. This is a program that could definitely get expanded, although we would likely have to contract with a company if this becomes a bigger initiative. In order to expand the program and to ensure its success, there would be multiple steps involved. This would include vetting out contractors to determine which company would work best for our District, ensuring we have the budgeted funds to support the program, purchasing new containers to ensure ease of recycling, promotion of the program to staff and students, logistics of collecting the recycling by our custodial staff.”

According to the Carton Council, “The average US elementary school has 469 students and sends upwards of 80,000 drink containers, of all types, to landfills each year. Collectively, that’s 5,761,239,523 (almost six billion) containers, or about 30 million large bags of trash.”

This would mean that, in regards to our school, which has around 2,200 students, it can be estimated that we are sending about 375,267 drink containers alone to landfills each year, not including other recyclable materials.

Some people might argue that recycling costs too much taxpayer money, and that there are currently issues of more importance to worry about than the school’s recycling, such as the bathroom and security issues we have written about previously. 

However, apathy in staff (with regard to recycling) breeds apathy in students, and this cannot continue. 

Stanford University argues that recycling does not cost too much money: it could actually save some of the school’s money. It is cheaper to recycle than sending all of it to trash disposal, saving the school money and also protecting the environment.  

Landfills hurt the environment by creating unnatural landscapes that take a long amount of time to decompose. The World Wildlife Foundation of Australia claims that it takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose: bottles could be reused so that they would not be wasted in landfills.

Students at WEGO feel the school can do much better.

“I do think people would start to use the recycle bins, if they were in the halls and in the Commons,” said junior Ema Tomasevic.

Freshman Adrian Sanchez said, “I wasn’t aware that the school has a program right now, because it doesn’t feel like the school is doing anything about the whole recycling situation.” 

To solve the issue of cost, educating students on the importance of recycling can go a long way. Adding a single sentence to the third period announcements about the impact of recycling can do wonders to encourage students, and even faculty to recycle. 

Putting recycling bins in Commons is crucial to encouraging recycling, as that is whereby far the most garbage is produced. Many garbage goods are more recyclable than many people may believe, so education would promote opportunities for recycling. Posters around the hallways encouraging the students to recycle could also prove useful as well. 

If it is not possible to engage the DLP program in the recycling effort again, another solution to this problem could be that teachers could send themselves or a student to take their recycling bins to a conjoined bin somewhere in the school. The individual classroom bins could be taken once a week or every other week to that bin. When they get full, maintenance could add those materials to one of the large recycling containers in between Entrances A and H so that those goods can await collection from some kind of recycling company like Flood Brothers

Here, at West Chicago Community High School, every classroom has their own recycling bin meant to be collected and sorted out by the end of each week. That being said, one final possible and more community-oriented solution to the recycling problem is starting a program that takes place after school in the small gym where students donate items or clothing to the school, which are then able to be collected by those who bring in any number of recycling, and the more pounds of recycling brought in, the better the rewards/items will be. 

Vernon Middle School in Montclair, California has been using a system where students earn a point for every bottle, cashing in their accumulated points over time for clothing items. 

Our idea is similar, but will likely be more effective as prizes could increase with weight, and the items to be recycled are not limited to only just bottles. 

West Chicago Community High School principal Dr. Will Dwyer said, “We don’t have enough manpower to have somebody go through the garbage each period, and it’s not effective for companies.”

However, he is willing to help do something about it with the help of WEGO Global or Club Green.

Dwyer said, “It will be a good summer conversation. Right now, we can organize all of it, but are we going to keep it here? Giving it a couple of weeks, we’ll be out of space on where to put it.”

In other words, the school is waiting for a proper company to partner with to solve the issue: according to Dwyer, until then, the is little anyone can really do.

However, it is important this topic is discussed over the summer, and that plans be put in place to run a full recycling program next year. The school can – and should – do better. Everybody needs to share in the responsibility.