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Let’s Talk Trash…Recycling at STEM Academy and Sandwich High School

by Alexander Denmark, class of 2015

Since the beginning of this school year, 2740 lbs of paper and cardboard have been collected through the STEM recycling program. That’s over 30 lbs per day! While the recycling program only encompasses the STEM Academy at this moment, it is scheduled to expand throughout the entire high school, nearly tripling its capacity, on pace to recover ~15,000 lbs of paper and cardboard per school year, in addition to recovering thousands of plastic bottles and cans.

How does this recycling program work? Currently, there is one recycling bin in each classroom, into which students and teachers place paper and cardboard. When that bin is full, a student carries it to the end of the hallway and dumps it into a large, 96-gallon, roll-away container. When those containers are full, I put them into my truck and bring them to the Sandwich Transfer Station.

But, hold on, you say, that system doesn’t seem sustainable. You’re right! That’s why I developed a plan that will handle all recycling on campus, eliminating the need to transport it to the Transfer Station. In the coming months, two compactors and many more large roll-away bins will be delivered to Sandwich High School to handle all recycling operations, both in STEM and SHS, allowing not only paper to be recycled, but also plastic and metal. These compactors will be similar to the one you see if you go to the Sandwich Transfer Station (but smaller).

This recycling project is part of a program I call T.I.R.E.S., The Initiative for Recycling and Environmental Sustainability (online at www.tiresrecycling.org), an organization I founded to increase environmental education/awareness and to encourage the adoption of environmentally-responsible practices.

So, why did I decide to implement a recycling program? Well, technically, we (Sandwich High School) have to have one. Since April 2000, according to the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, 310 CMR 19.017(c), “no person shall dispose, transfer for disposal, or contract for disposal or transport of the restricted material.” These “restricted materials” are recyclable items. The regulation goes on to specify certain materials that cannot be landfilled or incinerated. These waste disposal bans include recyclable paper, plastics, and aluminum cans, among other commonly recycled materials. Basically, these regulations make recycling the law.  Those laws, in and of themselves, could write their own article, but I don’t want to bore you with that.

T.I.R.E.S. is based on the belief that one person can make big difference in the world. Change it. Make it a better place. It takes dedication, time, and a lot of motivation and patience. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about recycling. If you are interested in learning more about what else I do with T.I.R.E.S., would like to get involved, or if you have a question about recycling or the environment, please feel free to email me at adenmark@tiresrecycling.org or visit my website at www.tiresrecycling.org.