A lot of classrooms within the high school are provided with a green recycling bin supposedly used to recycle paper only. However, the paper put into these green bins does not get recycled. Instead, it gets tossed into the trash dumpsters outside at the end of the day. While it may seem like Shaler Area recycles, the reality is that the school district has had a very hard time going green.
The problem is that the majority of school administrators and personnel are under the impression that the waste management company used in Shaler does not offer recycling services.
The waste management company contracted by Shaler Area is called Republic Services. This company collects trash for the entire district but recycling is limited to cardboard if separated.
However, Ms. Maryellen Stanko from Republic Services contradicted what the school district has been saying by stating that their company offers a service called single-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling allows any recyclable items to be placed in the recycling bins provided. The company will do the sorting instead of the consumer.
When the school district was asked about the single-stream recycling program offered within the contract set up by school administrators, Head of the Building and Grounds Department, Mr. John Kaib seemed surprised by this discovery.
“If they came out with something new, it’s something we didn’t know about,” Kaib said.
While Kaib seemed surprised, Stanko, from Republic Services also shared the immediate confusion when asked why the district continually said recycling was not available.
“I am a bit confused, as we have always offered recycling,” Stanko said.
Stanko said that Republic Services offers recycling of plastic, paper, aluminum, cardboard, metal cans, and glass. In a school district, the majority of the recyclable items are plastic, cardboard, and paper.
According to Activities Director, Mrs. Mindy Thiel, around 11,000 plastic bottles are purchased each year in the Activities office alone. That does not include any plastic bottles purchased in the cafeteria.
According to Nutrition Director Jenny Pearson, as of May 1, this year the cafeteria sold almost 60,000 bottles of tea, which also includes the lemonade and nearly 4,000 bottles of Gatorade. Due to the fact that Shaler Area does not utilize the recycling services provided in their contract, all of those bottles are thrown into the trash.
The main problem is that Shaler Area doesn’t utilize this single stream recycling or even paper recycling. Republic Services has eight recycling bins on site, one at each school including the primary building. At the high school alone, there is one 10-yard recycling dumpster that is rarely used.
Instead, the school district dumps the paper collected in the green recycling bins (within the classrooms) into the Abitibi dumpster outside of GYM B. Reoccurring problems such as throwing trash into the recycling bins have made it harder for the school to be successful in recycling. If any garbage is thrown into the recycling bins, no matter how much paper is with it, it is all thrown into the trash.
These recycling dumpsters outside of GYM B that are supposed to be full of the paper Shaler Area (supposedly attempts to recycle) is full of cardboard even though the company placed a sign that states cardboard will not be collected in those bins.
“We have a cardboard container just for cardboard. And you know what happens? People put trash in it. No one reads anything. They just throw it all in one bin. It’s terrible. It all starts in the classroom. Even the kids don’t even know what those green bins are for if they’re not told or explained to,” Kaib said.
In past years, that same company, Abitibi would give our school $4 a month for recycling paper. The company is strictly for recycling paper only. Green and yellow Abitibi bins are located behind the school where paper can be put into for recycling but no trash or cardboard are to be included.
Abitibi is still the company Shaler Area supposedly uses for paper recycling, but it no longer gives the $4 a month because the company had almost gone bankrupt. The school district has yet to recycle plastic because of the expenses.
“Collecting plastic would be a cost. Not many companies responded when we tried to contact them about our school district recycling plastic,” Kaib said.
However, Stanko’s earlier quote about recycling contradicts this. Everything involving waste management, from trash collection to recycling (including plastic) is included in a yearly bid package.
The combined cost for the 2014-2015 school year totaled $47,107.00 including the $3,528 that recycling costs. In the high school alone, the price for recycling totals to $528 for the 2014-2015 school year. That price seems like a small portion of the overall, combined price, but yet, Shaler Area still denies the fact of recycling through their current contract. The contract is up for reevaluation through a bidding process every school year.
The school district has a closed bidding session and chooses the least expensive offer from the companies. In the bidding session, all of the deals are sealed and then opened at the meeting. This process eliminates the chance for companies to change their original bid. Then, that company signs a contract with the school district for the school year beginning in July. A bidding meeting takes place around February to decide who the next candidate will be.
For many years Shaler’s Ecology club has made tremendous efforts to raise awareness of the importance of recycling. Last year, Mr. Chris Lisowski, former sponsor of the Ecology club, and his club members took the initiative to make recycling a more well known issue in the school district.
“Last year, I organized with my Ecology club to collect bottles and we made a sculpture in front of my room with a petition up with several hundred signatures,” Lisowski said.
Due to the ignorance of the single-stream recycling service offered by the waste management company that the district already pays for, Shaler Area is not as enviornmentally conscious as it can be.
“Recycling is important for society. By modeling it in a school we help to set the standard for what students should be doing at home and in the real world. It seems to be the socially responsible thing to do. It’s so easy,” Ecology club sponsor Mrs. Kathleen Elder said.