BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Ridge High School students are in the running for a national award for a study on how to make the school’s recycling program more effective.

Seven students in the school’s Project Citizen program presented their findings and recommendations to the Bernards Township Board of Education on June 17.

The students’ work concluded the recycling program could be improved, and recommended spending about $1,800 to buy three-compartment recycling stations for eight or nine locations at the high school.

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The presentation said that a student survey found a high lack of confidence that paper and plastics being tossed into classroom and lunchroom containers were actually being recycled. Fifty percent of students said they “strongly agreed” that janitors didn’t separate recyclables, but threw paper and plastics in with food and other waste in one generic trash bin.

Fellow students and social studies faculty judged the recycling presentation as best of 14 entries in a school competition. The program was also judged best in New Jersey by a Rutgers University panel, making the power-point summary eligible to be presented at a national showcase in San Diego later this month.

Teacher Suzanne Ward said the projects had to suggest a plan for action, and it was “not enough to identify a problem and gripe about it.”

The report said Ridge High School has the principles of an effective recycling program, but it had problems executing effectively. Classes were not sorting paper and plastic in separate bins and there was a general lack of motivation to follow the system, the report said.

That was despite a general desire to recycle, the survey said.

Of 366 student responses, nearly 40 percent said their households recycle and were proud of it. Another 36 percent said they always recycled, and another 21.2 percent said they did so sometimes.

But, if janitors don’t follow through in the recycling process, students didn’t think it was worth doing themselves in school, the survey said.

One part of the most feasible and constructive solution, said student Gillian Begg, was to educate students and staff through morning announcements and teacher presentations.

Recycling could be made more accessible, the students said, if the school would place three-compartment (for trash, plastic and paper/cardboard) bins in major hallways, the atrium and the cafeteria.

That should be combined with training of people who handle the materials all the way to the correct dumping bin.

The program would need signs and “shocking” facts” to increase awareness, said student Owen Rhatican, and a more consistent education program.

“We learned a great deal about how to implement policies we hold important to ourselves while not being in a position of power,” summarized student Abhay Badala.


Other students giving the presentation, which is accessible on the school district website, were Arohi Dandawate, Alex Petric and Sam Lewis.