While the trash cans at the snack bar are labeled for recycling, they are full of food waste and trash, making recycling the usable items in the can nearly impossible. Photo by Codi Carroll
Does Atascadero High School recycle? Judging by the mixed trash in all the classrooms and out on campus, many students believe that the school doesn’t recycle, which makes sense considering that none of the bins in our classrooms are actually used for recycling even though they are labeled “We Recycle.” However, AHS does have four designated recycling dumpsters and the district owns its own trash truck that picks up recycling weekly.
Atascadero Unified School District is one of the few local districts to operate its own district-wide dumpster trash service, Trash & Recycle. Trash is collected and is taken to the Chicago Grade Landfill, while recycling is collected and taken to the San Miguel Recycling Facility. School-wide recycling programs are in effect at almost all of the district's Elementary Schools, according to Sean McKinley, AUSD’s Assistant Director of Support Services. “Each School's program is slightly different;” said McKinley, “however, they have all adopted the common practice of utilizing the appropriate waste receptacles. Some have even removed the classroom trash cans completely!”
While these systems at the elementary schools are great, Atascadero Middle School, Paloma Creek, and Atascadero High School have yet to implement similar systems. Especially in today’s culture, where people, especially young people, are becoming more environmentally conscious and want recycling to be an everyday part of life. But when none of the classrooms at our schools have designated recycling bins, students and teachers have no option to recycle.
According to McKinely, “Our custodians still make an honest effort to recycle as much as possible.” While this may be true, having recycling bins in classrooms would make a huge impact on the amount of waste they are able to recycle, especially the large amount of paper trash that might be recycled. In the past, it has been a challenge to effectively recycle at AHS because of the improper disposal of trash and recyclables being mixed into the single classroom receptacle. The recycling facility’s standards are that recycling must be 100% “clean” recyclables, and have “no food residue or other soils present on recyclable materials,” said McKinley.
The AUSD is working towards bringing recycling back to Atascadero High School. Next a recycling program will be implemented at the Atascadero Middle School campus. Once that has been successful, a program at AHS will begin. McKinely said, “The idea behind this is to first begin with our lower grade level students, teaching them how to recycle and educating them on it's importance, process, environmental impacts, etc. As our current elementary school students progress to the middle school and eventually to the high school, the act of recycling will already be a common practice for them and therefore much easier to maintain as an expectation and culture.”