Does Scituate High School Recycle? 

Maeve Lawler and Emma Huggins

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Recycling is a vital process that helps preserve our planet. Considering the jeopardy the world is in due to the current climate crisis, recycling is an effective and low-cost way to reduce energy usage and pollution. Reusing materials reduces the accumulation of waste and the consumption of new materials, yet many families, businesses, and schools still struggle to recycle. Is SHS a part of that struggle? 

According to Principal Robert Wargo, SHS does recycle. However, the issue of recycling at SHS is more complex than just a yes or no. The school does have recycling bins in the classrooms, as well as two dumpsters outside of the cafeteria–one dumpster for cardboard, and the other for streamline recycling. But there aren’t any recycling or composting bins in the cafeteria, which is where most of the waste in the school is produced. 

It’s also common to see custodians dumping recycling into the trash. Junior Lily Grazioso explained that someone told her they witnessed this happening. Wargo said the administration discussed this issue with the custodians. According to Wargo, the janitors can become frustrated because “sometimes there are things in [the recycling] that shouldn’t be in there.” However, upon further investigation, it was found that this stemmed from the janitor’s knowledge that SHS wasn’t recycling. According to Judith Leahy, who is in charge of the recycling team at SHS, there was a four-month period when the school was not recycling. This is because the waste management company the school uses was on strike, which prevented the recycling from being collected. Because the janitorial staff was aware of this strike and lack of recycling, they disregarded recycling altogether, throwing it in the same bins as the trash.

Now that the strike has ended, and the recycling is being collected again by the waste management company, why are the custodians continuing to throw the recycling into the trash? Leahy believes this can be accredited to students putting the wrong things into the recycling bins.

Hingham High School has been recognized as a Green Ribbon School, as they have achieved 21st-century greatness by reducing its environmental impact and working to maintain sustainability. Wargo said he wants to increase SHS’s efforts to become more sustainable, and he recognizes the “great work” of Hingham High School. Along with many SHS students, Wargo is hoping to make strides to receive a Green Ribbon School distinction.

 What would those strides look like? First off, recycling must stop being thrown into the trash by the janitorial staff. For that to happen, the students must be taught the correct regulations regarding what can and cannot be recycled. There is more the school can be doing when it comes to waste management in the cafeteria. There should be separate bins for waste, recycling, and compost. The school also continues to use single-use plastic and styrofoam in the cafeteria, which can be switched out with more sustainable options, such as compostable cardboard trays and utensils. 

So does SHS actually recycle? Leahy explains that the school’s hope “is to always try to recycle.” But SHS often falls short in making a collective effort to create a functional recycling system. A growing group of environmentally conscious students at SHS is looking to create more sustainable change in the school, and it’s only a matter of time before that change is made. When climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations Youth Climate Summit in September, she said, “We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.” Both the youth and the administration at SHS should be motivated by Thunberg’s wise words and put this unstoppable change into action in our school community.