Recycling and Composting Disaster: BHS has shown little effort to make a change
May 11, 2017  //  By:   //  News  //  Comments are off

When you think of the Bainbridge community, you think of an environmentally conscious and progressive community, always looking out for our natural environment. Previous school superintendent Faith Chapel said of the community, “As a school district we are very committed to Environmental Science.” However, the current reality at Bainbridge High School is far from this standard.

Woodward Middle School is a great example of this eco-friendly approach. After lunch, the students sort their trash, recycling, and compost out into separate bins with the help of an informed student standing by. These 7th and 8th graders, backed by administration, have turned recycling and composting into a science, doing everything possible to reduce the amount of material going into landfills and maximize the nutrients going back into our soil.

The recycling and composting situation at BHS, unknown to many, has reached the point of nonexistence. There are several culminating problems which result in this unfortunate state of wasting, yet no solution is beyond reach.

It all comes down to a lack of care and education by administration and students. For many years, a functioning program worked with the help of BHS English teacher Karen Polinsky to facilitate a functioning recycling system. This was through a program called Earth Service Corps which now looks to have little influence on the situation. “There isn’t much a group of students can do if the sorting we do just ends up in the landfill anyway,” said current head of Earth Service Corps and Environmental Science teacher Jason Uitvlugt.


Earth Service Corps, a club headed by Jason Uitvlugt.

On the surface, BHS appears quite conscientious about recycling, but those neat color-coded bins in the Commons are deceiving. Thanks to some investigation, it was discovered that no matter which bin you put your food into, it will almost certainly end up in the same place: the trash. “In the recycling industry, it is cheaper to throw out an entire bin of recycling because of one contaminated piece of waste than to pay someone to sort through the recycling,” said student researcher Annika Thornburg who dedicated her AP Environmental Science final project to the topic. “Thus by necessity, the BHS recycling is placed in the garbage to prevent entire dumpsters from being disposed of by recycling corporations.”

The composting situation is no better either. Compostable trays seemed a great alternative to the vandalized and stolen plastic trays the school used before, proving cheap, environmentally friendly, and less work to wash. However, as a result of the poor sorting of BHS students, there are not enough salvageable food scraps to facilitate the composting of trays. The trays are of course thrown away. In the long run, they are also more expensive than plastic trays.

In terms of solutions, the options are plenty. Any mode of educating the students on how to sort lunch scraps would be a boost, such as an assembly or student facilitators. Commodore uses an identical composter to that of BHS to great effect while the high school’s has remained ultimately idle. “We need to work together as students, teachers, administration, and custodians to create hope for our future,” said Karen Polinsky. “A coordinated effort, such as a monthly task force is not an option, but a requirement.”

With two other local schools performing composting and recycling to great effect, it should be more than possible for us as a group of even brighter minds and conscious citizens of the world to make a positive change for our school and our environment. Helping the environment is not just about doing our part in a worldwide issue and providing for future generations, but setting a good example for our current students by prioritizing sustainable practices. The effort to execute a plan is minimal, yet we cannot continue as we are now. As Jason Uitvlugt concluded, “Let’s stop pretending and wasting time sorting if it is all going to the trash.”

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