Recycling program brought back to life

By Billie Mandelbaum

When Tamalpais High School students returned for the fall semester, many were surprised to learn that the school’s recycling program had been cancelled. Senior Sam Grossman, took a stand and decided to work to reinstate the program.

“When I heard about [the cancellation] a few weeks ago I started to talk to staff members who I thought could help me,” said Grossman.

The school’s administration decided to end the recycling services because trash and recycling items were being mixed in the school’s recycling bins. According to science teacher Lyanne Abreu, students, staff and even neighbors who live behind the school’s campus were putting trash and food items into the bins. Once trash is placed with recycling, the recyclable items are contaminated and can’t be taken to the dump for processing.

Previously, Abreu and students in her environmental science class had helped organize the school’s recycling program. However, because of logistical issues, Abreu considered stopping the environmental science recycling program.

“I was going to stop organizing the recycling program in my environmental science classes, but Sam Grossman really wanted to keep it going and do something about the recycling problem,” Abreu said.

Grossman, who said he could not believe his ears when he heard about Tam’s decision to cancel recycling services, decided that something needed to be done to restore the program. Grossman convinced Abreu to continue her recycling work with the environmental science classes.

He also contacted Pat Gannon, the school’s head custodian who then called Mill Valley Refuse, the company in charge of recycling services throughout Mill Valley, to restart recycling pickups at the school. Recently, Grossman and his fellow environmental science classmates have began collecting recycling from classrooms every Tuesday morning.

Grossman and other students have been making presentations to classes as a way to educate students about which items are recyclable. Grossman feels that education is a very important step in improving the school’s recycling program. “I think there’s a major issue with those who aren’t thinking about what they throw in the trash and whether or not it can be recycled,” he said.

Efforts to recycle in educational institutions has been a problem throughout the country. Like Tam, Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts has struggled with cross-contamination in recycling bins.

A lack of education has been linked to the contamination problem. In a student-conducted study of 178 of the college’s students, 63 percent of the students said that their biggest obstacle in recycling was a lack of information.

When students don’t recycle, all of their waste is taken to the landfill. According to the State of California’s recycling department school waste database, Tam disposes of 117.1 tons of waste (trash and recycling) per year. Grossman said, “It seems ridiculous to me that a school of well over one thousand students would be putting everything in the trash.”

Here at Tam, Grossman hopes that students will take in his information and attempt to make a change. Grossman said, “I think that the more we get into people’s ears about recycling, the more willing they will be to keep it in mind,”