School violates environmental law

Stefanie Iojica, Editor-in-chief

As the second bell rings, signifying the end of lunch, the last of the students filter out of the Student Center. The cafeteria staff close down the lunch lines. Only quiet remains.

That, and the garbage overflowing from the trash cans. Despite the student body generally considering themselves environmentally conscious and the school itself marketed as environmentally friendly, it is behind the rest of the district in being green. It’s easy to pinpoint why.

For starters, trash isn’t sorted, so everything goes to landfill. Paper, food, plastic, everything is thrown into non-pre-segregated trash cans such as the ones in the Student Center and in the hallways and dumped into landfill.
California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery reports that the decomposition of organic wastes in landfills results in greenhouse gases and significantly contributes to global climate change.

In the last two decades, California’s legislature has increasingly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions the school has a few segregated trash bins in classrooms, which were put in place by SEA-DISC. However, social studies teacher Michael Clune reported that it’s not in the custodians’ contracts to recycle what needs to be recycled.

While they still sort the trash out of the kindness of their hearts, they are under no obligation to do so.
The biggest generator of waste at school is the cafeteria. Several years ago the canteen served organic food with compostable utensils that recent budget cuts have eliminated. This has considerably contributed to waste; single-use containers/products, such as the juice boxes, are the largest contributors to waste.

“We’re actually getting worse, not better. We’re moving in the wrong direction.” Clune said.

According to an audit done on the canteen’s trash bins by Marin Sanitary earlier this year, over half of the trash sent to landfill is compost. Because the school does not offer a convenient compost bin, it significantly contributes not only to the landfill but also greenhouse gas emissions.

This actually violates state law. Assembly Bill 1826 requires all schools to have a readily available composting program. If the school followed state law and provided compost bins, the amount of trash produced would be cut in half.

Assistant principal Chad Stuart expressed his surprise at the school’s lack of a composting program.
“I think we should have a very vibrant compost. I’m shocked that we don’t,” he said

However, he doesn’t view it as something the administration must implement. Rather, he views it as the job of the community.

“I do not believe that anything will happen when it comes to this kind of situation in terms of making the school more green unless there’s comprehensive involvement from everybody. Stewart said. “I think that the administration can help drive it, but it needs to have buy-in from everybody, from the teachers, the students, the community. If you really want to do something awesome, that’s what it would look like to me.”

Clune expressed his frustration with the school assuming that SEA-DISC will deal with environmental issues here. He stressed the importance of students taking the lead and implementing greener habits such as bringing lunch from home in reusable containers.

“It shouldn’t really be [SEA-DISC’s] responsibility. It should be the administration, it should be the district, it should be the whole school taking ownership over these things.” he said.
Izzy Parnell-Wolfe, the Schools and Community Recycling Coordinator from Marin Sanitary reflected this opinion.

“With the increase in effective collaboration between the school’s administration, the custodial team, and its students, Drake should be able to leverage its resources to come together to make a composting program a reality.” Parnell-Wolfe said.