Project focused on improved recycling
With the right infrastructure, the Liberty Bell Junior/Senior High School community could be recycling more, a one-day “waste audit” conducted by the Liberty Bell Youth Climate Action group recently concluded.
The waste audit, held on May 5, was performed by seven members of the group: freshmen Leki Albright and Gabby Studen, juniors Wyatt Albright, Amelia Bondi, Stella Gitchos and Elke Wathen, and senior Lena Nelson. The students inventoried the contents of the 105 pounds of trash generated by the school community on May 4, which the custodial staff saved for the group instead of throwing it in dumpsters at the end of the cleaning shift.
Emptying each trash bag onto a tarp, gloved-and-masked students sorted through the garbage and separated it into piles, with categories like “food waste,” “compost packaging,” “mixed paper,” and “aluminum.”
After the sorting, the group weighed the contents of each category and, with the help of junior Dominic Priest in the Statistics class, crunched numbers to come up with data about the study.
The results were unsurprising. Less than a quarter of the things thrown in the trash on May 4 were bona fide land fill items — things that couldn’t be recycled or composted. Had composting systems been in place, nearly half of the trash could have been composted: food scraps and compostable food containers.
The waste audit was spearheaded by Gitchos, who is completing an internship with the Methow Valley Citizens Council. “The elementary school did a broad waste audit a while ago,” Gitchos said, “so I was thinking about how to make Liberty Bell more climate-friendly and sustainable. And I was brainstorming about implementing different systems when I realized that we didn’t really know what needed to change. The waste audit was the first step.”
Not that simple
Gitchos said that composting would be one clear way to reduce the school’s amount of trash, but it’s not as simple as it may sound. Composting has been related to senior projects, and as students graduate and move on, the systems aren’t always maintained.
Additionally, some of the “compostable” packaging from off-site takeout food and drinks that appeared in the waste audit trash is not appropriate for school or backyard composting; it requires an industrial composter.
Similarly, while numerous garbage cans are located throughout the school, recycling bins are fewer in number, causing school community members to make decisions each time they hold an empty pop can, a used piece of paper, or a glass bottle in their hands: throw away now, or walk around and find a place to recycle.
Gitchos said that the group’s intention is to present its findings to the school and implement more convenient and effective recycling and composting systems.