Grade 5 and 6 students at Rossland Summit School have implemented a plastic recycling program.
Bridget O’Malley’s students went on a field trip with Wildsight’s Jessica Williams back in October, where they learned more about what happens to Rossland’s trash and recyclables.
But the field trip was also a chance for the students to find out how they could implement a recycling program for plastics at their school and three and a half weeks in, they have already diverted approximately 120 litres of plastic containers from the landfill.
The students first got the idea to recycle plastics after conducting a garbage audit with Williams.
They found that 23 per cent of their trash was actually trash, meant for the landfill, while 37 per cent was recyclable and 40 per cent was food waste.
Following the students’ field trip, Alpine Group Recycling provided them with a large blue container for curbside pickup.
Then the students constructed recycling bins with separate spots for containers and plastic bags and set them up around the school, and presented to other classrooms to explain how the bins work.
“Before you put the plastic containers in we ask you to rinse it with water, otherwise they won’t take it. And then with the plastic bags, we want you guys to shake some crumbs out,” explained Finley Johnston, Grade 6.
On Fridays, O’Malley’s class goes around the school and collects the bins so they can clean them out and sort what’s inside.
Once the containers have been sorted and cleaned, the plastic containers go into the bin for curbside pick up on Monday and a parent volunteers to take the plastic bags down to the Trail Bottle Depot.
But not all of the students using the bins have been following the instructions.
“Students are throwing garbage, food and half-full cans of pop in the recycling bins,” said Johnston.
To help other students clean out their containers properly, Johnston and his classmate Christopher Knight, a Grade 5 student, recently asked PAC to install a plastic rinsing station as part of their cafeteria rejuvenation project.
They’re also asking parents not to send as many disposable plastics to school in the first place, as reducing is the first step in eliminating waste. O’Malley’s class would like to see their fellow students bring reusable containers in their lunch.
In learning about recycling plastics, O’Malley’s students also learned more about how plastics can harm the environment.
“We spent a good week and a half researching,” said O’Malley.
“[Plastic] poisons you when you throw it out,” explained Johnston. “Because you’re killing animals and then you eat those animals possibly and then you’re also possibly poisoning yourself.”
“Plastic, if it breaks it never biodegrades, so it stays in the ground the whole time,” said Knight.
As for the high percentage of food waste, O’Malley’s students hope that Rossland Summit School will one day have a compost program as well.