Does Harriton Recycle? Not Really

When is the last time you dumped your cafeteria tray in the trash without thinking about what you were really throwing away? What if you did recycle something, like your water bottle? Unfortunately, Harriton students frequently throw away recyclables, and if you did put your water bottle in the yellow bin, chances are, it wasn’t actually recycled.  The cause of this problem lies with the students putting trash and recyclables in the incorrect places. Today is Earth Day and this is one way we can help.

RecyEco, an IB independent service project, strives to address these problems. Headed by senior Eleanor Mayes, the project intends to improve Harriton’s current recycling issues, “especially the recycling that students are most involved with (think bottles),” Mayes said.

The current recycling system in place at Harriton involves paper recycling in the blue bins in all classrooms and non-paper recycling in the yellow bins around the school in the hallways and cafeteria. But even with a simple and potentially effective recycling system, most of the recyclable material we use as a school does not actually get recycled.

According to Mayes, “The issues largely lie in contamination of recycling receptacles: students place trash in the large yellow bins, which are only supposed to be for bottles and cans.” This contamination also includes plastic in the paper bins and vice versa. If one gum wad or math paper is in a non-paper recycling bin or if a single gum wrapper or bottle is in a paper recycling bin, none of the other acceptable contents will get recycled. What about the bottles that never make it into a recycling bin? Mayes stated, “The custodial staff does not have time (nor should they have to) sort through and retrieve the bottles from the trash cans so they can be recycled…”

RecyEco acts upon these issues – contamination of recycling bins and loss of recyclable material – in a few ways.  First, they try to educate students about recycling and what kinds of materials go in each type of recycling bin.  Second, during RAMs, RecyEco members have been collecting bottles and cans from trash cans and yellow bins to deposit them in the recycling dumpster at the back of Harriton. Normally, they gather two large trash bags worth a day. This number may seem small with the amount of bottles existing in Harriton, but it is better than having no recycling done at all.

Likewise, the Environmental Club at Harriton, run by Shana Herman and Allison Schwartz, works hard to mitigate Harriton’s indifference towards recycling. Two years ago, the club was the one to place the yellow recycling bins in the hallway; previously, they had only been in the cafeteria. This year, the club organized a sculpture in the lobby of recycled bottles that had been collected at Harriton over the course of three days. The sculpture was decidedly smaller than the club had originally wanted and anticipated, but presumably this is a testament to how little Harriton recycles!

Not only on Earth Day, but also on every other day of the school year, think about what you are throwing away and where it is going.  Be sure to keep RecyEco in mind the next time you are throwing recyclables in the trash, or plastic in the paper bins. As a Harriton community, we can change the lack of recycling in our school and take advantage of the various recycling bins our school district has provided for us.