American High School features a model student led recycling program to divert paper and CRV material from the waste stream. Funds from the recycling program are channeled back into campus beautification efforts including tree planting. Students in science classes regularly participate in activities such as paper making and labs that investigate materials separation techniques used in single stream recycling systems. American High School hosts monthly meetings of FIERCE- FremontIans Enabling Real Change in the Environment- a student group representing each of Fremont's five high schools that work together to plan community events and organize service projects such as the establishment of community gardens.
American High School has a program that collects all classrooms’ recycling once a week. Water bottles, glass bottles, #2 plastics, and aluminum cans are separated and cashed in at a recycling center to gain funds for the program. Here's a description of their program written as a replicable "how-to" guide to help other schools set up simial programs. Thanks to Kathryn Tarver, a junior at American, for writing and sharing this resource!
Required and Recommended Supplies:
- At least 2 types of recycling bins
- Large plastic bags (ideally clear)
- Thin plastic gloves
- Labels for bins
- Paper for sign-in sheets
How American’s system works:
Before the school year begins, recycling captains ask teachers what type(s) of recycling bins they want for their classrooms. Each bin is labeled by room number and the type of recyclable material it will hold (such as paper or bottles and cans); these bins are delivered to teachers a few days before school starts.
Students interested in recycling submit their names and fourth period teachers’ names to a spreadsheet.
Recycling captains compile a list of these students; the list is sent out to teachers so that teachers know which students to excuse.
Recycling captains select reliable, experienced recyclers (usually other club officers) to be Wing Monitors.
On Thursdays during Read Period, all recyclers meet in a central location. One recycling captain makes announcements while Wing Monitors pick up their assignments from the central table.
An assignment is a sheet of cardstock with an area of the school written on it; clipped to the cardstock is a piece of paper with spaces for the names of the Monitor and recyclers who sign up to help them.
Just before the recyclers meet, an announcement is made over the PA system reminding teachers and staff to set their recycling bins outside their classrooms.
Assembled recyclers are split into the pre-assigned A Team and B Team. One team is sent to Sort, and the other remains to Collect. (AHS has people with first names A-K on A Team, and first names L-Z on B Team. This is the easiest system because the Sort sign-in sheet is organized by first name.)
Physically separate A Team and B Team before announcing which will Collect and which will Sort maximizes the number of people at Sort; otherwise, most people want to Collect and choose to ignore the A/B Team system.
At Collect, 8-10 recyclers sign up with each Wing Monitor and follow that Monitor to their assigned area. The Monitor quietly directs their recyclers in consolidating the contents of the recycling bins and then sends recyclers with full bins to Sort or to the recycling dumpster, with orders to check back in with the Monitor afterward.
The contents of many bins are dumped into a single large bin to minimize the number of trips recyclers have to make to Sort and/or the dumpster.
Having recyclers sign back in with their Monitors minimizes the number of off-task students and bins that aren't returned to their classrooms.
After finishing their Collect assignments, students are told to attend Sort or go back to their classrooms.
Bottles and cans are brought to Sort, while other recyclables (primarily paper) are brought to the recycling dumpster at the back of the school, where one officer records how much recycling goes into the dumpster and pre-assigned Dumpers are in charge of emptying the heavy bins into the tall recycling dumpster.
The data taken by the recording officer demonstrates how much waste the school is diverting; this is useful in grant applications.
The Dumpers have the hardest job and therefore are often given gift cards and other thank-you presents by the recycling captains.
Outside, Sort Team has already set up, having arrived early.
Different colored bins have been set up, each labeled with the material that should be deposited in it.
These bins are stored in the shed, along with most other recycling materials.
At Sort, recyclers sign in with an officer, take ONE glove from the provided box of gloves, and begin crushing and sorting the bottles and cans that officers are tossing onto the ground from delivered bags of bottles and cans.
Each recycler only takes one glove to minimize waste; unscrewing caps is practically the only activity requiring two hands, and a recycler can ask a friend to unscrew the bottle they’re holding.
Rather than dumping bags of collected bottles onto the ground, officers pull only the bottles and cans from the bags. Since there will inevitably be trash in the recycling cans around the school, this system prevents the trash from being emptied onto the ground and blowing away.
Each time a Collect recycler brings a Sort officer a bag of bottles and cans, that Sort officer provides the Collect student with a new bag to place in the bin from which the full bag came.
When only five minutes remain until the end of Read Period, Sort officers order a clean-up. All Sort bins are returned to the shed in which they are housed; bags of sorted bottles and cans are also placed in this shed. Bags of unsorted bottles are placed in the smaller shed. Both sheds are padlocked at the end of Read Period.
All recyclers return to their classrooms.
The Service Accountant inputs all data from Monitors’ assignments and the Sort sign-in sheet into an online spreadsheet so that students may receive service learning hours for their participation in the Recycle program. (The Service Accountant is a club officer in charge of organizing information regarding service hours.)
Since AHS Recycling has been receiving complaints from teachers about the loudness of Collect recyclers, additional monitors will now be placed in all wings to hush recyclers and take note of any off-task students.
Pre-assigning which recyclers will work with each Wing Monitor may improve the organization of Collect sign-ups.
If a Collect officer is absent, their substitute (a reliable recycler whom they have selected and explained the system to) takes their place.
Recycling captains provide their email address(es) to teachers in order to hear about any problems that teachers are having regarding recycling.
Thanking recyclers for coming at the beginning of every Recycling session is always a good move. :)
On Friday afternoons, American High’s Re:Use team meets in science teacher Candy Sykes room. The team quickly sets to work making jewelry, weaving rugs and experimenting with new ways to turn trash into saleable objects to help raise funds for science classes on campus. The room has a happy buzz of quiet, engaged conversation as hands busily work to create new stuff out of old materials.
One popular activity is the transformation of spent gift cards into earrings using a die cut set and other simple tools. Recently students began experimenting with using colorful HDPE plastics from shampoo bottles, laundry detergents and other household products to add more color and variety to the jewelry.
At the weaving station, students cut t-shirts into long strips and hang them on a color-coded rack. Others use these strips on custom-made looms to weave small rugs, pot-holders and trivets.
Materials created by the Re:Use team will be sold at EarthDay events, campus fundraisers, and at the 2014 Maker Faire where students will also lead workshops in creative reuse for the Faire’s 100,000+ attendees.
Inspired by a tour of the Owens Illinois glass bottle and jar factory in Oakland, American High School AP Chemistry teacher Candy Sykes decided to persue her dream of having students recycle glass on campus.
"I want students to go beyond just collecting materials for recycling," notes Sykes, "I want them to actually learn how stuff is made."
With a grant from the Altamont Education Advisory Board, Sykes was able to purchase a glass firing kiln, ceramic molds, and other start up supplies to begin experimenting with glass remanufacturing.
"We did get some advice from the lead engineer and glass chemists from the factory, but at this point, we are truly experimenting to see what works."
Students are collecting different types and colors of glass, breaking them into course, medium and fine grade frit, arranging a variety of firing schedules, and tracking the results.
"Glass has to cool down slowly or it will de-vitrify," explains Pavritra Ravishankar- one of Sykes's students. "Luckily, we have a programmable kiln, so we can raise the temperature quickly, then specify a cool down schedule to avoid crystalizing the glass."
To test different configurations, students are using a mosaic tile ceramic mold to create 1"x1" glass tiles. Sykes hopes to one day create enough tiles for large projects and expand to using shaped molds for creating glass jewlery. Students apply kiln-wash to the mold to prevent glass from fusing to the mold itself, then add glass and any additives.
So far, students have discovered that brown glass melts and fuses the easiest compared to green and clear glass. Medium/course frit produces a nice pebbled texture, and clear glass can be colored by adding various chemical salts to the firing molds.
Pavritra shared the school's results on March 17th at the International Zero Waste Youth Convergence in San Francisco. She and her peers hope to have the process understood and functioning by the end of May so they can share and sell their products at the Maker Faire.
After a waste audit at American High revealed that over 75% of trash in many of the garbage cans located in common areas could have been composted, teachers and students took action.
With support from an Altamont Education Advisory Board Grant, teacher Candy Sykes was able to purchase lightweight diversion stations for the rotunda. "It was important to our custodial staff that the stations be easy to move so they can sweep and polish the large area. We were able to find stations that are lightweight and seem durable."
Sykes and her fellow science teachers plan to set up a service program through their classes where students help monitor the bins and educate their peers about the proper placement of compostable materials.
The bins were assembled and installed by the school's Recycling Team on Friday, March 15th.