Every Wednesday and Friday, the rumbling of wheels can be heard in the hallways of Westlake High School. Those are the days designated by members of the recycling club for collection of items they want kept out of the landfill.
“One day we decided to do something for the environment,” Westlake senior Jade Madison, president of the school’s recycling club, said. At first Madison and her friend Briana Jones, a junior who is the vice president of the club, wanted to start a new group. When they talked with Charles Newcomb, science teacher and the recycling club sponsor, they decided to join and dedicate their time to urging classmates and teachers to recycle.
It has paid off.
Westlake placed first in the Recycle Bowl for Maryland in 2015 and 2016. This year, the school’s neighbor, William B. Wade Elementary School, came in second. The Recycle Bowl is a program of Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit organization with initiatives aimed at litter prevention and ways to reduce waste.
The Westlake club has about 30 members — about 15 are die hards who can be counted on to pitch in regularly — who remind the school to recycle by making morning announcements, sharing PowerPoint presentations and hanging posters. Madison said the best way to get their peers on board is to talk to them, even if it means chastising them for throwing something in the garbage rather than in one of the iconic blue bins.
Recycle Bowl participants track the weight of collections over a four-week period. Each school has to turn in the number of students and teachers taking part in the program and report the total weight of the collections.
At Westlake all classrooms have at least one recycling bin and the club has a few large containers that are wheeled around twice a week for collection. When the big containers are full, they are emptied in a dumpster. Then club members continue the collections and dumping until they have made their way to each room.
Recycling isn’t a chore at Westlake. Some of the students have been doing it most of their lives and staff, including building services and those in the cafeteria, are on the recycling bandwagon, as well. “It’s in the culture,” Newcomb said. “It’s built into the culture of the school.”
“We have always been this way,” Madison said of she and Jones’s dedication to the health of the environment. She wants to study forestry; Jones wants to be a zoologist or work with animals. “We want you to care for the environment as you would care for your home,” Madison said.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,400 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.