Do We Recycle at Waterford?


Phi Kasem-Beg

Recycling at Waterford High School has been a controversial topic for as long as marine biology teacher Mr. O’Connor can remember. Nearly every school year, a group of students and teachers push and encourage Waterford students to recycle waste in an attempt at making an impact on the environment. Every time the recycling initiative is restarted at Waterford, however, the movement fails. “We go through a cycle on recycling where we try to recycle but can’t do it due to various reasons, most of which have to do with the lack of leadership [at Waterford High School.],” says Mr. O’Connor. Mr. O’Connor has witnessed this cycle occur countless times at Waterford High, and no matter what the students do to push for recycling, it always ends up failing. “The board of education thinks we’re recycling, but we’re really not; the head of maintenance thinks we’re recycling but we’re really not. Students won’t put the effort into separating, and the custodians don’t want to spend their time sorting out the trash from the recycling. There’s a lack of communication and understanding in what has to happen that makes it fail every time we did it because [recycling] needs to happen from top to bottom.”

One of the only things that is being recycled at Waterford is cardboard used around the school. Yes, there are possibly hundreds of pounds of printer paper waste that could be recycled, but O’Connor stated that “We have to pay 20 dollars a ton to get hauled to the trash [that] turns to energy. If we recycled this paper, we would get paid 5 dollars a ton for our efforts.”

Is there any way that Waterford students can make an impact on recycling school wide? When asked why he believed this system fails time and time again, O’Connor states, “It is everybody in the school understanding that we are going to recycle, it is the custodial staff understanding that it is the law, and people at the top understanding that this is an important issue that they have to enforce.” O’Connor advocates for reducing one’s waste as much as possible. He tries to use the least amount of waste possible when shopping, and what he can’t reduce, he’ll try to recycle. Other teachers such as Mrs. Marchese and Mrs. Cano take both their own and student’s paper waste elsewhere to recycle to avoid it from being thrown away with non-recyclable items.

What are the ways that Waterford students can reduce their waste and combat the recycling problem at the high school? There are many alternative ways of living that can help those who want to lessen their carbon footprint, stemming from enormous lifestyle changes to even the most minuscule actions that can make an impact on the health of the planet. One of the arguably easiest ways to combat the unnecessary use and disposal of plastics is investing in a refillable water bottle. Although bottled water is convenient, it can take at least 400 to 1,000 years for a bottle to fully decompose according to the Ban the Bottle initiative. Although one-use plastic bottles can be recycled, only one out of five bottles are properly recycled back into later use. By using a refillable water bottle, the average American can save up to $200 annually on the cost of using plastic bottles. Many Waterford students tend to use single-use plastic bottles throughout the day and discard them after they’ve finished, but if students were to switch to refillable water bottles, this will reduce Waterford’s plastic waste intake. Even if students continue to use plastic bottles, they can easily refill them throughout the day or take them home to make sure they’re properly recycled.

Waterford High School needs to start recycling. Although it seems that Waterford is only a minuscule town that wouldn’t make an impact, there are millions of towns just like Waterford throughout the United States, that believe they aren’t making an impact either, which adds up much too quickly. The high school could face serious consequences, both legal and environmental, if we do not recycle. With the right amount of effort and discipline, the school could successfully contribute to bettering our environment and the earth.