Teaching Responsible Recycling and Sorting

One of our strategic commitments in our Into Action strategic plan is Conscientious Citizenship in which we aim to "Expand our program and facilities to ensure students and the school are responsible environmental stewards." We are lucky to have teacher, Kevin Markovich, a passionate advocate for the environment, take the lead on an initiative this year to teach our students how to sort and dispense their trash appropriately.

Right out of the gate on the first day of school, our students have been in "trash-sorting training." During morning and lunch recess, Kevin has provided each eating area with multiple, well-labeled bins where students can place their compost, recycling, liquid waste, or trash. Students are not allowed to start recess play until they can show the teacher on duty that they have properly thrown out their food waste and packaging.

Kevin is also collaborating with 5th grade teachers, Talia Rhodes and Trisha Cahill, to train the "Green Team," a group of 5th grade student leaders to help oversee and guide other students in the MTS trash sorting initiative. At a Lower School Gather on Wednesday, September 14, and after thorough training and preparation, the 5th graders led a session about the program. After first highlighting why it's important to take responsibility for our trash, 5th graders then took turns testing the group with examples of trash and asked audience volunteers to determine which bin the trash should be placed in and why. 

Some examples were fairly straight-forward – the banana peel went into the compost bin, and the bbq chip bag went into the garbage. However, some seemingly simple examples turned out to be more complicated than expected. For example, the seaweed snack plastic receptacle would seem like an obvious candidate for recycling – however, on further inspection, students learned that the recycling number on the packaging was a "number 7," which means it's considered "other" and cannot be recycled. In another instance, a "compostable fork" was determined best placed in the garbage bin and not the compost since compostable forks actually take much longer than food waste to break down and should therefore not be put into the compost. (A trick question indeed!) 

Students learned that liquid in a water bottle should first be poured into the liquid container before putting it into the recycling and that aluminum foil - while recyclable - should not be placed in recycling if it's contaminated with too much food. While it might seem complicated at times, Kevin reminded students that if they are ever unsure about where to put something, they can always refer to the information cards posted on each bin outlining what can go into each one or ask a nearby teacher for help. 

The session both started with a student telling a funny trash joke and ended with a signature silly “dad” joke. That said, students learned that sorting trash is no joking matter. We are all working hard this year to become better informed about the trash we create and to take responsibility for where it should go in order to all create a better and safer environment together.


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