Iowa City students aim for revised district recycling plan


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City High School students are pushing to get the Iowa City School District’s recycling program organized and up to speed.

City High class presidents and student senators began the initiative at the high school but are now aiming to establish a unified recycling system across the district.

"[City High student government] did research at other schools to see what kind of systems they had and compared," said Senior Class President Sophie Neems said. "The process across the district is a little fuzzy."

District schools have varied recycling systems that are organized outside the district, said Sophomore Class President Eli Shepherd.

"Basically, all the programs we found were based off-site of the campus," he said, and this made it difficult to track the recycling efforts.

After independently installing a new City High system May 4, the students sent a petition to the School Board, asking it to require a faculty member at each school to support the school’s recycling program.

City High Principal John Bacon said the students also found an abundance of plastic bottles mistakenly thrown in the trash.

"Plastic milk bottles were a big culprit in trash cans," he said. "We took a good close look at our recycling system and found a lot of good things, but [there was] no recycling for plastic bottles."

The school has added four recycling bins to its lunchroom specifically to combat the overflow of milk bottles. Students estimated that 700 bottles are thrown in the trash daily.

After the students’ study, Bacon contacted Johnson County Refuse to establish a recycling delivery system for the rest of the semester.

The work of volunteer custodians — who deliver the bags to a pickup zone and reline the bins — have made the program completely free, Bacon said.

Yet costs will likely arise once school officials decide to use the services of the Johnson County Refuse.

Neems said the cost for recycling service would only be about $50 to $70 per month, with additional bins costing $15. The School Board will review the plan at the next governance committee meeting.

Board member Sarah Swisher said the recycling system would still save money for the district despite the possible additional costs.

"It will probably only cost a minimal expense to recycle — perhaps it could even be cost-neutral, which would even save us money," she said.

The students placed handmade recycling advertisements around the school to attract people to the bins.

"The process has been difficult because people are still throwing things away in the wrong bins," Shepherd said.

Bacon said the recycling system would take time to set in and some aspects were still being developed.

"We’re taking further steps to institutionalize the process in the school," he said.