Kent-Meridian’s recycling emphasis halves cafeteria garbage

Teenagers are typically known as a group that enjoys talking trash. But at Kent-Meridian High School, there’s now a lot less trash to talk about. That’s because of the work of the environmental sciences classes, which have worked hard this year to educate their fellow students about the importance and ease of recycling.

Kent-Meridian seniors Ena Grabovica

Kent-Meridian seniors Ena Grabovica

Teenagers are typically known as a group that enjoys talking trash. But at Kent-Meridian High School, there’s now a lot less trash to talk about.

That’s because of the work of the environmental sciences classes, which have worked hard this year to educate their fellow students about the importance and ease of recycling.

Their results have paid off. In the time since students returned from winter break, the emphasis on recycling has literally cut in half the amount of garbage produced in the school cafeteria during lunch and reduced the number of Styrofoam trays used by nearly 500 each day.

The results have surprised even the students.

“I didn’t think it would go this well at first,” said junior Mikayla Watkins, 18.

“As time goes on, people are realizing the importance of recycling,” said junior Mohammed Konneh, 18.

According to environmental sciences teacher Dianne Thompson, K-M joined the King County Green Schools program last year and began collecting paper and other recycling from classrooms.

Every Friday during sixth period, a small army of environmental science students spreads out from their classroom in the east wing of the school and goes to every classroom in the building, collecting the blue recycle bins that have ben filled to the brim with paper, aluminum, plastic and other materials that can be reused.

Meanwhile, students in the special-education program collect the recycling from the main high-school building.

“Before that most of our paper was going in the trash,” Thompson said.

This year, the cafeteria has been added to the recycling program and the class has not only added an educational push with their fellow student but many spend at least part of their lunch periods standing near the recycling bins – which were built by the school’s wood shop classes – encouraging others to recycle as well.

Thompson said much of the focus of the class is on sustainability, which she described as leaving enough resources for the next generation.

“We need to save the resources and we also need to save space in the landfills,” she said.

Thompson said her students have been “absolutely on fire” about the projects.

Watkins said she was shocked after working on a report for the class in which she discovered there are multiple islands of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, some nearly twice as big as Texas.

“If we don’t (recycle), where are we going to live in 100 years?” she asked.

The students say not everyone at the school is on board, but that isn’t stopping them from trying.

“We encourage them to recycle more,” said junior Michael Serame, 17.

The students also are collecting food scraps from the garbage at the cafeteria and placing them in worm bins behind Thompson’s classroom. The program was started last year by Cody Bartholomew, who was awarded a $1,000 Planet Connect grant last March to help create the bins.

“This year we’re actually using them for recycling in the cafeteria!” Thompson said.

According to custodian Tammy Dudley, their efforts are paying off. Dudley said she has been able to cut in half the number of trips she has to make from the cafeteria to the school’s dumpsters.

“I see a big impact,” she said. “We have less garbage that I have to take out.”

Dudley said the kids weren’t only making her job a little easier, but also learning a valuable lesson.

“The kids at K-M are really learning what’s going to impact our whole society,” she said. “I think the program is really a good thing for these kids.”


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