Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc

Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc. Educational Initiatives

Schools commit to recycling

Laura Thompson - Guelph Mercury April 17, 2007

Catholic board to stop sending some recyclables to landfill

Students at local Catholic elementary schools are learning how to reduce,
reuse and recycle classroom waste this week.
A new waste reduction strategy comes after the local separate school
board committed to ensuring recyclable materials are recycled rather
than going into a single outdoor bin — and then to landfill. Only cardboard
has been recycled at city Catholic elementary schools in recent years.
The school board is putting in a uniform system across all of its elementary
and high schools in the area, with sorting taking place at the classroom
level. The change will impact about 7,000 students. Before the program
was started, only St. James and Bishop Macdonell high schools had programs
in place to recycle cans, bottles and fine paper. Students across the
board will now sort into three streams — bottles and cans, paper, and
waste — in the classroom. School board officials have decided to start
out with the basics rather than including all recyclable materials to
ensure children don’t get confused with the program. "We feel good
about this system because it’s simple and uncomplicated," said
Paul Clarke, a librarian and Grade 3 teacher at St. Peter Catholic School
whose spearheading the initiative. "Let’s start simply and build
on it rather than just going for the gusto and having it be too complicated."
The materials will be collected on a weekly basis and the program will
cost the board an extra $5,000 per year, said John Forestell, administrator
of plant and operations for the Wellington Catholic District School
Board. Those costs are expected to drop once the recycling initiative
is established and the schools become a reliable source of recyclables,
he said. The Catholic board formed a waste separation and recycling
committee last fall to implement and monitor the new program. The initiative
officially kicked off yesterday with Clarke hosting the first of 11
recycling assemblies at elementary schools that show even the youngest
students how to sort or reduce waste and why these practices are necessary.
"I’m passionate about the issue because there have been three or
four starts but they’ve never lasted," he said. "The starts
have reflected the changes that have been at the wet/dry (plant) over
the years." Forestell said local Catholic schools have always mixed
recyclables but then the board learned a year or two ago that the infrastructure
was no longer in place at the city’s recycling plant to separate the
materials, meaning much of it was going to landfill. One of the more
recent initiatives embraced by the Catholic board had students sort
recyclables by material — aluminum, steel or hard plastic. Clarke said
sorting that way was confusing for students and excluded glass from
the separation process. Before launching the newest program, officials
from the separate school board consulted its waste hauler, Wasteco,
and the City of Guelph. Jen Turnbull, the city’s waste reduction co-ordinator,
said keeping the streams simple means the risk of contamination is reduced
in the classroom. But she said the key to ensuring the recycling system
will be successful this time around is teamwork. "Everybody generates
waste at every age and children are going to grow into adults in their
community," she said. "The earlier we instil these types of
values — the waste reduction values — the better." Maggie McFadzen,
spokesperson from the Upper Grand District School Board, said the public
school system separates recyclables from waste already and many classrooms
have blue boxes. A new pilot project at John F. Ross high school has
been approved recently and will introduce threestream separation —
including organics — at the classroom level. A project start date has
not yet been set. McFadzen said it will cost about $500 to supply the
school with the appropriate containers. "A school is a big place
and you have to look at the costs involved," she said. "There’s
always room to improve.