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Unclear recycling policy yields confusion in cafeteria Written by and photos by Seth McCoy '19

Plastic water bottles are no stranger to Staples High School; they can be found left behind in classrooms, half-drunk and abandoned in stairwells or next to a student, face deep in a chicken-parm sandwich, in the cafeteria.

Water at staples is a popular go-to item in the cafeteria. Almost every student gets water bottles each day, sometimes two or three per day, according to a cafeteria cashier.

With such a high volume of plastic, recycling seems the obvious disposal solution. However, many students don’t realize that Staples does recycle. As a result, proper bins are neglected and waste is dumped in whichever is closest to them.

“There is no such thing as recycling in this school,” Kelvin May ’19 said. Like many students, May is unaware of any recycling policies in Staples.

Recycling is an integral practice that is a part of the Staples climate, according to Principal James D’Amico. In the past, Staples has worked with students, specifically “Club Green,” to encourage their peers to recycle whenever possible. Recycling in the cafeteria can be tough to manage because once food waste contaminates the recycling, the entire bag must be thrown out with the trash.

Once trash contaminates the recycling, the entire bag is compromised and tossed away with the trash.

“When you have over 600 kids eating lunch at the same time, it’s virtually impossible for the administration to manage what people are putting in what bucket,” D’Amico said.

Despite using the morning announcements to ask students to be mindful of their trash and showing pro-recycling informational slides on TVs throughout the day, student behavior has not changed much.

Water bottles, cans and other recyclables are mixed into trash bins in the cafeteria. The consensus surrounding recycling policy at Staples seems to root in confusion. “In the cafeteria, I only see a lot of trash bins so I don’t think a lot of people recycle,” Lauranne De Vos ’22 said.

In an effort to increase their eco-friendliness, Wilton Public Schools began their Zero Waste Schools Initiative, deemed “one of the most comprehensive public school programs in the state” by The Wilton Bulletin. By providing options for students and faculty to properly dispose of garbage, recycling, liquids and compost, the school hopes to cut back on as much unnecessary waste as possible.

“Over 78% of school waste could be diverted from the trash to organics composting and container/paper recycling collection programs,” according to The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

With all of the different food and beverage options made available in the cafeteria, there is a large amount of recyclables that need to be properly disposed.

Though Staples has yet to take such steps, the administration has worked with Chartwells to make the cafeteria’s offerings more eco-friendly and biodegradable. For instance, they have swapped out individually-wrapped disposable utensils for new one-at-a-time dispensers that eliminate the need for excess plastic wrapping.

The new silverware system in the cafeteria dispenses silverware sanitarily while eliminating the need for individual plastic wrapping.

“Whenever we have an opportunity, we try to cut down on waste if we can,” D’Amico said.

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