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High schooler brings single-stream recycling to BPS

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | 7/3/2012, 8:27 a.m.
City Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo and Boston Arts Academy sophomore Nadia Issa are working to put recycling bins in schools throughout the city. Heather Perez

Nadia Issa, a rising sophomore at Boston Arts Academy, goes through several water bottles each day.

As a dance major, she and her classmates rely on vending machines to stay hydrated, and when they’re done, they toss the empty plastic containers in the trash.

But Issa quickly realized this wasn’t right. “It sets a bad example,” she said. This past semester, Issa decided to take matters in her own hands.

As part of an honors seminar and her involvement in Generation Citizen, a nonprofit that teaches young people how to solve problems in their communities, Issa and some of her classmates cooked up a plan to get recycling bins in their school.

“I really like to be involved with volunteering, activism, anything like that,” she said. “It’s just in me.”

At the end of the school year, Issa delivered a speech on her school civics day, explaining her plan, and why it would be important to Boston Arts Academy.

City Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo was in attendance that day and, hearing Issa’s speech, realized that recycling in schools was an important issue to pursue.

Now, Arroyo is introducing a hearing to try to find ways to bring single-stream recycling to Boston Public Schools. The councilor’s office says it will invite representatives from Boston Public Schools, the Healthy Schools Task Force and other organizations to testify at the hearing on how to achieve this plan.

“If we want our young people to get in the habit of being environmentally friendly and conscious of the world we have inherited, what better way than to create that model in our schools?” Arroyo said in a statement. “I look forward to working with students, the school system, and our community partners to help make single-stream recycling a reality in all public schools.”

With the single-stream system, all recyclable products — paper, plastic and metal — can be placed in a single container for pick-up, eliminating the need for sorting.

The City of Boston introduced single-stream recycling for residents in 2009, and claims that the ease has increased recycling by more than 50 percent in Boston neighborhoods. The City also says it’s cost-effective — sending trash to landfills or incinerators costs more than recycling.

“The lessons young people learn do not just happen in the classroom,” Arroyo went on. “By having recycling bins in our schools, students learn the importance of recycling and putting water bottles in the blue bin instead of the trash can.”

Issa explained that Boston Arts Academy does have a basic recycling program, but that it’s not enough. “We have recycling boxes — cardboard boxes — but they’re small and they’re not emphasized,” she said. “So people get in the habit of throwing things away.”

Issa is optimistic that her plan will ultimately be successful. She says: “I hope that recycling can be well-developed in my school and other schools across the state and country. My school should get involved. It’s a really good thing.”