Trashing our future

Angie Gulizia, Editor in Chief

The colorful blue recycling bins at Gunderson are hard to miss, but how much of a difference are they making? Even though they are in every classroom, recycling might not be as common or simple as it seems.

According to research from the Annenberg Foundation, the United States produces about 230 million tons of trash every year. A study from Wayne State University says that barely a quarter of it is recycled when an estimated 80% of it could be.

Even though Gunderson is a tiny blip in the US, we definitely contribute. “Some [recycling] goes into the garbage can and we don’t sort it out, so we just put it into the garbage,” custodian Jose Gonzalez said. “We mainly recycle paper and bottles.”

One issue? Students don’t know what to recycle. Recycling bins are often left empty while trash cans are full of garbage. A simple solution might be to create awareness about what can go in the blue bin and what can’t.

Another issue lies within the locations of the recycling bins. Classrooms are an obvious place to put them—students and teachers are constantly producing paper waste by means of worksheets, printed out articles, and story excerpts. However, paper isn’t the only waste being produced at school. Students generate waste in the form of cans, bottles, and paper and plastic products such as utensils from the cafeteria. Gonzalez said that there are no recycling bins outside—which means that unless they go into a classroom, this waste has no place to go other than the trash cans.

According to a study by CalRecycle, paper, plastic, and metal waste makes up around 45% of schools’ trash. The main form of waste at schools is organics, at over 50%. Organics are anything that can be broken down, like food from lunch. Food waste is often put in compost bins, which Gunderson also does not have. Composting is important because it gets the trash out of landfills and can be used for things like gardening.

According to the Washington Post, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Recycling is important, and failing to recognize that could change our planet forever.