The US produces five billion plastic disposable bottles a year. The majority of these bottles are thrown into landfills where they will wait at least 450 years to biodegrade. In December, Mr. Scott Fortney’s environmental science classes started a project to collect trash around Woodgrove, focusing primarily on discarded water bottles. After sorting through their collection of trash, students recorded the findings.
Inspired by the sustainability and overuse of natural and artificial resources, Fortney thought about recycling in the US, especially at Woodgrove. The project was created to help students and teachers at Woodgrove take responsibility for their trash, and to encourage them to sort trash into the proper receptacles when discarding it.
Students collected recyclables from classroom recycling bins and from the cafeteria during lunch. Then, they sorted out the items according to what type of recyclable they were. Data was collected based on the number of recyclables in each category. The beginning of the experiment was kept a secret to test the current recycling at Woodgrove. During the second week, the student body was informed about the recycling project, and the numbers increased.
“A big component is educating the students in not only how the system works, but hopefully giving them some information that will give them a more intrinsic desire to recycle,” said Fortney. All in all, the classes collected and sorted: 507 aluminum cans, 1262 water bottles, 904 other plastic bottles, and 142 pieces of other plastic items.
“I think it’s important to recycle and limit plastic bottle use. I hope people will be encouraged to put their trash in the correct receptacle,” said AP Environmental student Jack Klimek.
In Loudoun County, one of the richest counties in the US, less than 50% of people have curbside recycling. “Most people don’t have accessible recycling,” said Fortney, “so it’s really up to individuals to step up.”