The Roar

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:  How to Help Keep Our Schools Clean

A look at how recycling in our school and in our county really works

Loudoun County Public Schools has been recycling since 1991.  In the 2016-2017 school year, LCPS recycled 1,415 tons of recyclables, as well as 116 tons of organic, or yard waste, according to LCPS Director of Facilities Services Edward (Don) Treanor.  

Now this may seem like a lot, but Loudoun County Public Schools threw away 7,829 tons of food waste, scraps, and garbage during that same year. Some of that amount was most likely recyclables that might have been properly recycled if someone had put them into the correct bin.

Our school uses a process called single stream recycling, which means that all of our recyclables go into one bin, and our recycling vendor separates it out. “We can throw everything into the recycling bin, except for things that they don’t recycle,” said Environmental Science teacher Jill Peters. Our vendor doesn’t recycle things such as tissues, paper towels, chip bags, food waste, and ziploc bags.

Single stream recycling is a lot easier for the custodians, and also allows more paper to be collected and processed, such as glossy junk mail.  It also produces less greenhouse gases, helping our environment thrive.  “Recycling still causes some air pollution, but at the same time it doesn’t use the new material, it doesn’t require cutting down trees if we recycle our paper,” said Peters. “It reduces the amount of fresh, new, material that we have to get.”

However, this recycling process means that more possible recyclables end up in landfills because of glass contamination, according to yottenvironmental.com.

But what happens when someone puts trash into the recycling bin? “The custodiens take the whole thing and throw it in the trash,” said Peters. “They will not separate it out.”

This means that a lot of our possible recyclables are getting thrown away because a careless person put their trash in the wrong bin.  

Schools produce an astounding amount of waste each day. Recycling in the school is important because “it’s a life skill,” said Peters.  “It’s really important that we all move in that direction, to reuse our materials as best we can, because we are slowly running out of these things, and it causes so much air pollution to start from scratch.”

On a larger scale, Loudoun County Public Schools employees operate the collection trucks for both recycling and refuse services. “They also collect recycling and refuse from all of the Loudoun County staff office buildings, fire stations, sheriff’s office, parks, and community centers,” said Treanor.  “Most of the recyclables are taken to a Waste Management, Inc. recycling transfer facility in Sterling, and all of the refuse and organic waste goes to the Loudoun County Landfill.”

So what can we, the students, do to help keep trash out of the recycling bins and spread the word about recycling? “Students can not only monitor what they put in the bins, but also what their friends put in the bins,” said Peters.  “If in doubt, put it in the trash can.”

If you would like a complete list of what can and cannot be recycled, click here.

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