On Monday, November 7, Horner Jr. High in Fremont launched a new lunch time recycling program to divert all bottles and cans away from the landfill.
The simple system places trash cans and recycling bins in a ring at the center of the courtyard where most students eat lunch. "In the past, we didn't have recycling bins out at lunch," explains special education teacher Neha Shah, "We were concerned that we'd see lots of contamination in the recycling bins when we set them out. Students at [neighboring] Irvington High School suggested that we set them in a ring in the center of the courtyard to make it easier to monitor the stations."
The new system addresses a number of challenges while aspiring to improve campus climate and culture. Students in the special education program manage the campus's recycling efforts and collect bottles and cans to fund field trips and enrichment activities.
"Last year, we dug through the garbage cans with grabbers after lunch to get the bottles and cans- this is definitely a huge improvement as kids are placing bottles and cans in designated containers," explained Shah. "We also wanted to build stronger relationships between leadership students and special education students. The students are already very kind to each other, but this allows them to work together for the common good of the school."
Leadership students set up the system and monitor the 1st half of the lunch period while special education students monitor the second half of lunch and sort materials at the end of lunch. Shah chose to use shorter recycling bins instead of tall toters to make it easier to remove contaminants like milk cartons and juice pouches. By the end of lunch over 100 bottles and cans were captured in the system.
The sorting station places ALL courtyard trash cans and recycling bins at the center of the courtyard. Although there are concerns that students will leave trash at the edges of the courtyard, most were observed to make the short trip to the station, pre-sorting their trash as they walked from their tables.
By using existing trash cans and bins, the system is easy to set up and move. On sunny days, most students eat in the courtyard, but on rainy days, they move into the large gym. "It'll be easy enough to set up the ring of bins inside when the rain starts," says Shah.
Shah is already looking toward improvements to the system including slop buckets for leftover water, milk and juice, aprons and gloves for station monitors, and perhaps the addition of food scrap diversion in the future.