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Environmental Science students take a closer look at trash on campus

By Andrea Lee

Trash is an integral part of human existence, yet treatment of waste is easily overlooked in everyday life.

With that in mind, environmental students participated in a waste audit in early February presented by the Earth Team organization in which trash destined for the landfill was collected from the school dumpster and correctly sorted into its respective bins.

As students helped to sort the waste, they discovered how even waste can be wasteful while gaining firsthand experience in the preliminary steps of waste treatment.

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Students sorting trash with representatives of the EarthTeam.

“It’s so easy to think that our trash just disappears when we throw it away, but it winds up somewhere on the planet, and it’s our job as stewards of the earth to know where it properly goes and how to make sure it gets there,” environmental teacher Carolyn Griffith said.

Of the trash collected, 85% was actually recyclable. The data from the audit shows more than half of the waste was food and food scraps, all of which can be thrown into the green bins placed around the school. Used tissues, paper napkins and oily papers can all be tossed into the green bin as well.

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The results of the school-wide waste audit.

Griffith offered an explanation of why so much decomposable material winds up in landfill. “People just don’t know, or sadly, don’t care.”

Students, even the teacher aids, found this as to

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Cover-Griffith helping sort Alameda High waste.

be an eye-opening lesson. Amanda Woodworth, senior aide to Griffith’s class, expressed her surprise. “Even though my class did this last year, it’s still a sobering experience,” Woodworth said.

For a deeper understanding of what can happen when waste is mismanaged, students were exposed to stark images before the sorting.  The class viewed photos of decomposing baby albatrosses who had consumed shards of plastic when the parent albatrosses mistook the sheen of plastic for fish.  In the photos, the plastic culprits were still present where the baby’s stomach had been.  As the body decays, a little pile of plastic is left behind.

Junior APES student Sarah Fong was moved by those images, “When I saw how deadly a bit of plastic litter could be, I took the lesson to heart so hopefully I can prevent unnecessary deaths like this in the future.”

Photos courtesy of Kahlil Flowers and Cayland Stanley.

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