KEEP AIKEN GREEN: Gardening helps grow a culture of recycling

August 27, 2018

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series called Keep Aiken Green, a recycling awareness and education project in cooperation with the City of Aiken and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Starting a classroom garden is a good way for students to get the dirt on recycling.

Teachers can use gardens to demonstrate how reused items, such as food waste and degradable paper products, can be turned into fresh soil in which to grow nutritious vegetables and fruits, said Dr. Andy Dyer, a professor in the biology and geology department at USC Aiken.

“It’s taking something that they were going to throw away, turning it into something useful and then growing food out of it. And not the kind of food they buy at the store – real food, food they grow themselves,” Dyer said.

Educating young students about recycling is important, Dyer said, because Americans do not recycle nearly so much as they should – or could.

“The biggest problem with recycling is the evidence suggests that it’s not really working that well on the big scale,” he said. “People have good intentions, but when it comes to the quantities of materials that we need to recycle, we aren’t even coming close in this country.

“What we need to do is not use single-use materials, such as plastic bags, plastic containers, yogurt containers. You scoop them out and throw them away. That’s single use. We brought it home. We used it. We threw it away. All of those things are really the problem. We’ve gotten into a disposable, consumerism lifestyle.”

Teachers can help develop a culture of recycling in their classrooms and schools. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s website offers simple steps for creating a successful school recycling program as follows:

• Build a recycling team to design, implement and maintain the school’s recycling program. The team’s members should include teachers, students, parent-teacher organizations, custodial and cafeteria staff and school administrators.

• Conduct a waste assessment to determine the amount, type and origin of the waste and potential recyclables the school is producing. Identify recycling opportunities throughout the school, including classrooms, cafeteria, vending areas, library, gym, athletic fields and teachers’ lounge.

• Develop a plan based on the information collected from the waste assessment. The plan should address the materials that can be recycled, collection and pickup of the materials, budget and potential funding, programs to carry out the plan, goals and promotion.

• Promote the program. For example, make presentations at school assemblies, make schoolwide announcements, place signs and posters around campus and hold a kick-off event.

• Begin recycling.

For the complete “Recycling: A Guide for South Carolina Schools,” visit scdhec.gov/recycle.

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