SNOW HILL – A government project by three Pocomoke High School (PHS) students could turn into a county and regional effort to improve recycling efforts in the schools.
Pocomoke High freshman Trey Lynch, junior Taylor Morrison and senior Jennifer Weaver presented the results of a public policy project on waste reduction to the County Commissioners Tuesday, complete with power point presentation, and garnered an enthusiastic response from the commissioners. Government teacher Meme Wells Suznavick assisted.
The report by Morrison, Weaver and Lynch originated with Project Citizen, an international program on public policy for high school students.
“Project Citizen teaches the kids how to present public policy to public officials,” Suznavick explained.
The students concluded that overall, Worcester County needs more recycling stations, particularly in the south.
Weaver, Lynch and Morrison also concluded that the county needs curbside recycling, a practice used in Ocean City, Berlin, and Snow Hill, which could make Worcester’s recycling efforts more effective.
“We did try the curbside recycling in West Ocean City and it was very expensive,” explained County Commission President Louise Gulyas.
Commissioner Judy Boggs pointed out, “It’s a lot easier when you have people and buildings in one place like Ocean City.”
So far, Worcester County has not met its goal of reducing trash by 40 percent through recycling, although the county exceeds the state standard of a 15-percent reduction. The county’s Department of Public Works estimates that county citizens recycle 34 percent of their waste.
The student presentation acknowledged that the financial wherewithal may not be available to improve recycling efforts in the next few years.
One policy change recommended by Lynch, Morrison and Weaver would mandate recycling of paper and plastic bottles in all 14 county schools.
“I really liked your ideas about involving the schools,” said Boggs.
The county currently picks up recycling from schools three times a week, said Recycling Coordinator Ron Taylor.
“Some do better than others. Some don’t want to participate,” Taylor said.
Last year, public works picked up 216,000 pounds of recycling from local schools.
“I think that’s a pretty good number,” said Taylor.
“We’re the only [regional] county that’s doing anything within the school system,” said Suznavick.
Boggs suggested that Lynch, Morrison and Weaver take on a leadership role in prompting Worcester’s schools to recycle more. Then, Boggs said, Worcester’s schools can become models for other counties in the area.
“Certainly the goals are laudable. We’ve been in favor of additional recycling,” Boggs said.
County Administrator Gerry Mason suggested recycling competitions and prizes.
In the past, the recycling message has been targeted to elementary schools, said Taylor, who added that the effort is not as strong in the high schools. He is glad to see high school students making this effort.
The commissioners discussed the lack of curbside recycling in Pocomoke City as a project for the students.
“They’re facing the same problem we are,” said Commissioner Bobby Cowger, who represents the area. “It’s a very costly program they’re going to have to subsidize.”
The county has been trying to convince its southernmost town to pick up recycling for 13 years. Other towns have switched to trash pick-up one day, and recycling the next trash day.
Recycling can reduce the solid waste stream by half and reduces the tipping fees paid to the landfill.
“Maybe our students can lead the way,” Boggs said.
The three PHS students have wasted no time in taking further steps as suggested by the commissioners.
“They have already approached Pocomoke City. They’re waiting for a date they can get on the agenda,” said Suznavick Thursday.
Weaver and Morrison are also involved in the regional student council, and are planning to work with their peers from other school systems to spark recycling efforts in other county school systems on the Eastern Shore, none of which recycle now.