Trash-talking Thornhill students clean up the competition
Newmarket students stomp way to second place
By: Kim Zarzour
Photo by: Sjoerd Witteveen
Christine Lee has watched the trash in her high school cafeteria with
It's not the grossness of the garbage that disgusts her, but what's
being done with it.
"The kids just leave it on their tables and don't bother to throw it
out," she says. "Or they'll throw it all together and the janitors say
there's lots of cross-contamination."
Cross-contamination. In trash talk, that's recyclables being mixed
with organic matter, and it's a waste - in more ways than one.
The Grade 12 student at Thornlea Secondary School decided to take matters
into her own hands - speaking metaphorically, of course.
She and three friends created a proposal for introducing the green
bin to their school, a proposal so "polished" that it caught the attention
of the judges at the Toronto Star's Great Garbage Challenge and won
them first place.
"At this age, we're young, impressionable, and can
pass these habits on to future children."
This week, they were rewarded with one pound of worms. Red Wigglers,
the best garbage-eaters around.
Miss Lee and classmates Amber Li, Grace Lim and Ying Li aren't sure
where the worms will go, but they're sure they've got a use for them.
"We'll probably put them in the back of the school somewhere, where
the waste bins are."
The wigglers, and their "worm chalet" were donated by Cathy's Crawly
Composters. There were other prizes, too, including a $500 President's
Choice garden centre gift certificate, several litterless laptop lunch
sets and organic cotton reusable produce bags.
The students are convinced this is the way of the future.
And the Grade 5 students at Newmarket's Mazo de la Roche public school
would agree. They won second place for their "stomp" idea. On pizza
lunch days, the eco-conscious students stomp the cardboard boxes to
music, having fun, getting exercise, and squashing the cardboard flat
to fit in one bin instead of two.
The Newmarket students also recently won a York Region District School
Board Eco-Team award for their idea.
This it the best time to introduce enviro-friendly habits, Miss Lee
"At this age, we're young, impressionable, and can pass these habits
on to future children."
Miss Lee and her classmates, all students in the Grade 12 World Issues
class, were praised for their good research skills. They conducted a
school survey determining 75 per cent of those questioned would use
the green bins. They described the benefits of diverting organics from
landfill, figured out how many bins they'd need and where to place them
and predicted how they could evaluate the program's success.
Sometimes you'll have a person at a school who champions
it and then leaves the school and the program ends up collapsing.
But they didn't stop there. They dream of one day bringing green bins
into every school in York Region, possibly all of Ontario.
The students were surprised to discover there are very few green bins
in most public places (parks, schools, malls), something they hope to
"We have been brought up in a society where recycling, reusing, and
reducing the man-made damage done to this world has been drilled in
our minds time and time again," Miss Lee said.
Robert Selvazzo said that while nothing formal has been set up yet
with Thornlea, the school board is open to the idea. "Any time there's
interest in a school, there's a good chance we'll try to work with them,"
said the manager of energy and environmental services for the public
The board began looking at the best way to bring green bins into the
region's schools last February with 18 elementary schools and three
"We have 200 buildings in the board and we need to make sure we have
a proper home for all this stuff."
While the board continues to emphasize litterless lunches, he said
there is interest in "refining and rolling out" more green bin programs
"But we have to be cautious and make sure it's sustainable. Sometimes
you'll have a person at a school who champions it and then leaves the
school and the program ends up collapsing."
In addition to the board-run programs, he said five schools currently
run their own green bin programs and two are looking into the idea.
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