Pierce County shifts recycling focus to schools

Over the past two decades Pierce County and other local governments have developed numerous programs aimed at convincing adults to recycle waste at home and work. Now Pierce County’s Solid Waste Division has launched a new program to help local schools recycle more and waste less.
One of the targeted schools is Spanaway Junior High, where county staff is working in conjunction with the school’s new recycling committee. Twenty students collected and sorted garbage from the school’s 64 rooms Dec. 6. Assisted by four representatives from the Pierce County Department of Public Works and Utilities, the students assessed how much recyclable material was finding its way into the school’s trash bins.
“We found that only 25 pounds of recyclables had been recycled on the day of the audit, which was only 2 or 3 percent of the overall garbage samples,” aid Kim Meline, the committee’s faculty representative. “I believe that we could recycle 85 to 95 percent of what we found.”
The recycling committee will conduct two more waste audits this school year to assess the recycling strategy’s success.
The other seven participating schools are Spanaway Elementary School in Bethel School District; Ford Middle School, Franklin Pierce School District; Sumner Middle School and Sumner High School, Sumner School District; and Evergreen Elementary, Key Peninsula Middle School and Gig Harbor High School, Peninsula School District.
“Scores of students at these schools are working to make Pierce County more mindful of its wasteful ways,” said Steve Wamback, the county’s solid waste administrator. “With support from school administration and faculty, students are designing programs to cut back on how much waste they generate and to recycle as much as they can. In addition to helping improve their schools, the students are learning lessons that can be applied at home and which strengthen their science and math skills.”
Bob Dieckmann, an environmental educator for Public Works and Utilities, is coordinating the project with assistance from colleagues Travis Dutton, Stephanie Leisle, Ryan Misley and Nancy Morrison. Local solid waste management companies LeMay Enterprises and Waste Connections (Murrey’s Disposal and American Disposal) are helping by developing recycling programs tailored to each school’s needs.
“Word has been spreading, and we’re already developing a list of other schools interested in participating in the 2008-09 school year,” Wamback said.