High schools expand recycle programs with students' help

Wichita Southeast High School junior Daroeuth Dith Jr. carried a beat-up trash bin as his sister, freshman Khann Dith, retrieved boxes of office paper from classrooms to be recycled.

"You get this one," Khann said to her brother as she dragged a box too heavy for her to pick up.

After Daroeuth's trash bin was full, they barely fit its contents into the recycling Dumpster outside. And this was their first paper pickup this week.

The siblings, along with students at all 11 high schools districtwide, have led an expansion of their recycling programs this year — from picking up more paper to introducing plastic bottle recycling.

Southeast has collected the most recycling — about 2,000 pounds since February, when the schools started keeping track of how much they recycle.

Today they will show off their efforts to lawmakers and Stacy Parkinson, Gov. Mark Parkinson's wife.

Daroeuth, president of the Sierra Teen Club, said it's all about helping the community.

"I was moved by... helping the environment," he said. "I have a lot of younger siblings, and I want it to be good when they grow up."

The idea to ramp up high school recycling programs districtwide came when student leaders from all schools decided it was a project in which they could make an impact, said Northwest High School senior Kaycee Anderson, who was part of the decision.

She said the student leaders continue to meet to discuss progress.

"When all the schools committed to recycling, it was really amazing," Kaycee said.

High schools are making a profit on recycling efforts through a partnership with Recycle for Youth Sports, the company that picks up the recyclable materials and exchanges them for money. Profits help fund student activities.

With Kaycee's help, the district applied for and received a $500 grant to keep the recycling program going next year. The money will help buy bins at schools.

Although all the high schools now recycle paper and plastic, each program is different.

For example, Northwest's program is much smaller than Southeast's because the 75 participating Southeast students can use a homeroom period to empty and organize bins, said Northwest junior Amanda Herman.

Each day, Amanda said she enlists one friend to help her empty the three plastic bottle bins. This takes about an hour because they often have to sort trash out of the bins and rinse out the bottles.

But Amanda and Kaycee said they're trying to raise awareness of the program through promoting this week as "Green Week," which includes lunchtime games and decorations throughout the cafeteria.

"There are signs up there," Kaycee said. "'Don't be Trashy' is one kids joke about."

Although most of the student leaders of the high school recycling programs are seniors, they said they leave strong enough leaders to continue it.

Plus, they can try to start recycling programs at their colleges, said Southeast senior Angela Fantroy, president of the leadership advisory council.

"It's just a little part, in little Kansas, where we can do something," she said. "It's a chain reaction."

Related stories from Wichita Eagle