June 5, 2012
Do schools have an obligation to recycle? For most of us schools are an integral part of our early life—teachers are our mentors, books our tools for exploring the world. Civic lessons teach us the importance of obeying laws and voting. Hands-on activities, such as recycling and picking-up after ourselves, help to make us conscientious and concerned adults.
Schools should inspire passion. Many of us grew up with the "Crying Indian" and its strong visual image against litter. It became our responsibility to pick up after ourselves and not just throw our trash on the ground. Schools reinforced this message, helping us to realize that we a can make a difference in our community—that we care about ourselves, our family, and our community. School recycling can inspire students to care about the planet, to examine the resources that we use to make our world sustainable, to look at the consequences of using resources and generating pollution and waste.
Schools help to shape the habits that we continue as adults. Students who participate in recycling now will have more of an incentive to carry on this "habit" as adults. We learn as children the benefits of recycling, how easy it is to recycle with the right system in place, and the concrete actions we can take to protect our planet. The recycling "habit" developed in school can serve to transform our communities, our jobs, our nation as we recycle more and more of the products we consume and the resources used to manufacture them.
Schools have an obligation to look at waste as an expenditure that can be reduced. Waste reduction and reuse can save schools money. Adding recycling into the mix, along with "right-sizing" school dumpsters and collection frequency, can result in substantial cost savings for schools.
Schools need to do the right thing. Some state and local governments require schools to recycle. When schools recycle they help to reduce fossil fuel usage, conserve resources, and help to create local jobs. Schools help to set an example, a legacy, which children learn to admire, and to emulate.
So, why do so many schools still not recycle? In rural areas it can be an expense to find a hauler. In urban areas, schools often grapple with challenges of poverty and student absenteeism. School administrators and teachers often feel they cannot take on yet another task.
Many schools simply lack that "passionate advocate" to get recycling started in the school. Recycling success depends on a dedicated individual or team to plan, develop, and implement the program. A school recycling advocate can be a teacher, student, administrator, or parent. Passion for recycling can spread quickly resulting in recycling becoming an efficient and normal part of the school routine; however, the spark to get the school to begin recycling is essential.
Submitted by: Athena Bradley