The SMHS Waste Pile

The SMHS Waste Pile

SHREYA RAJAPPA

After learning about the threats currently endangering the well-being of our environment, the AAPLE AP Environmental Class has become passionate about preserving and protecting our Earth. Taking the APES course has really opened their eyes to the tragedies occurring on our planet today, so they decided to do something about it. Specifically, they decided to bring awareness to the importance of reducing or eliminating waste generation.

Based on their research, they found that the amount of waste we generate has a tremendous impact on our oceans and atmosphere. Every day, the average person throws out 4.6 pounds of trash while the average Californian throws out 6 pounds of trash per day, demonstrating that we, as a state, are significantly exceeding the global average. This is incredibly important to consider because this extra trash is eventually deposited in landfills and contributes to global warming. When waste is buried underground, it is not exposed to the air required for decomposition. Because it can’t decompose, anaerobic bacteria living underground releases methane into the atmosphere as the buried waste is broken down. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and is therefore detrimental, because it contributes to climate change.

Our waste generation and disposal also impacts marine life, particularly plastic that eventually ends up in oceans. Plastic is not a biodegradable material, so it remains in the ocean for long periods of time. Even if the plastic material does break down by the motion of the waves, it is broken into microplastics. These microplastics attract organic pollutants that build up on the tiny pieces of plastic and are then consumed by marine life. Due to consumption, many marine animals are falling ill, resulting in the collapse of the marine food web.

Additionally, people are currently mixing up recyclable and non-recyclable materials. This confusion over where different types of waste should be disposed of causes more energy, time, and money necessary to sort out the waste into the correct places. Additionally, when recyclable materials are thrown out in the trash, they end up in the landfill. This means that extra methane emissions that could have easily been avoided are released into the atmosphere due to those recyclable materials being buried underground instead of being repurposed into other products. If we were to simply cut back on the amount of single-use, non-recyclable products we used and stop throwing out recyclable products in the trash bin, then we could significantly decrease our contribution to climate change!

Now, the AAPLE APES class has decided to conduct an investigation into our school’s ability to correctly dispose of waste. They will be collecting the trash from all of the outdoor trash cans and dumpsters on our school campus and will be sorting through that trash to see what could have been recycled. If you would like to see the results of their investigation, then come see the SMHS Waste Pile that will contain all of the outdoor trash on campus and will be in the middle of the quad on Tuesday, June 4th during lunch and third period! For more information about the SMHS Waste Pile, follow @thesmhswastepile on Instagram!

 

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