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Students Win Support for Recycling at High School Cafeteria

The Green Club will use a grant to get students and staff to recycle their empty lunch containers.

With a grant and cooperation from the city, a group of students and their teacher will finally carry out their goal of bringing recycling to Somerville High's cafeteria. 

The Alliance for Climate Education and the National Grid Foundation recently awarded the Green Club a $1,000 grant to install recycling stations, publicize the program and reward students who participate. 

, but social studies teacher and the club's advisor Kara Carpenter said they didn't educate people well about the recycling bins they had put out, which regrettably resembled the ones for trash. They also faced some procedural hurdles. 

Back then, part of the difficulty in reducing waste in the cafeteria was that the city wouldn't pick up recyclable goods daily, a service that educators considered necessary to ward off rodents. But that all changed this year, Carpenter said, when the city's environmental programs coordinator, Vithal Deshpande, told her that if she could get kids to recycle, he would get the Department of Public Works to empty the bins. 

A small grant will help

This time around, Carpenter said, Green Club members will have money to buy carts with holes on the lids and pictures that tell people what recyclable materials to put where. By March, students plan to wear green t-shirts publicizing the program and stand by the stations to help their peers and teachers dispose of their containers. 

The club will also ask students in the carpentry program to build the stations.  

"We've finally gotten ourselves together and gotten support," Carpenter said. 

Even with the grant and the enthusiasm of club members, Carpenter said it could be challenging to persuade students to scrape the food from their plates and dump out drinks before tossing the containers in the right bins. They're already rushed in their 30-minute lunch period, she said; it takes time to get their food, find a seat and eat before making a beeline for class. 

One incentive, she said, could be giving students raffle tickets each time they recycle. 

"It's going to be a lot of hard work," Carpenter said," but the founders are now seniors, and they're excited to leave the club with that legacy." 

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