SEEDS Presents Check to Scholarship Winner

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Last week, SEEDS (Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support) issued a $1000 scholarship in memory of Michael “Jake” Burkhardt to Mason Marie Clark, a 2018 graduate of the Wallenpaupack Area High School District, who resides in Hawley Pennsylvania with her parents Darron and Jamie Clark.  Mason was selected for her winning essay on recycling, which can be read below. The scholarship honors the memory of Jake Burkhardt who loved life, his family, his community and the environment and worked with SEEDS as a high school student. SEEDS board members, Mason, her mother Jamie Mason-Clark and Jake’s parents Michael and Carol Burkhardt were at the check presentation ceremony. Mason plans on attending Marywood University this fall to major in Communication Arts and Secondary Education Theatre. She  has enjoyed being an active member of the WAHS Players, WAHS Players Council, Show Choir, Symphonic Band, Marching Band, Concert Choir, District Choir, Astronomy Club, Science Olympiad, Ambassador Program, National Honor Society, Prom Committee and Junior Leadership. Outside of her school extracurricular activities, she has been taking dance classes at Honesdale Dance Studio, studying piano at Black Bear Conservatory of Music, and voice lessons with Carol Diefenbach.  She was a co-chair of the Youth Advisory Committee, which encompasses many of her local school districts.  Mason is a Faith Formation Teacher for St. John’s the Evangelist Church in Honesdale, and in her spare time has participated in productions through the Delaware Valley Opera Company and the Ritz Playhouse.  She would like to especially thank SEEDS and the Burkhardt family for helping her make her dreams come true through their scholarship program.

Left to right: Jocelyn Cramer, SEEDS Chair David Ford, Mason, her mother Jamie, Michael and Carol Burkhardt

 

Mason’s Winning Essay to the question:

Describe some of the recycling progress that has been made in our rural community. What recycling efforts elsewhere could be adopted here? And why is it important? Include ways to replace or eliminate “disposable” items (e.g. straws, plastic bags, styrofoam)

Recycling is not just an optional choice but a compulsory lifestyle, if we want to have a sustainable planet.  Our local community understands this and has strived to preserve our planet through many recycling programs. These organizations help our community in so many ways.  They reduce the cost of waste removal and provide an alternate place for our discarded products to be turned into something useful again. These programs provide a location to bring items that may be thrown away along our backroads, such as tires and old appliances, to a cost-efficient place for removal.  Our programs reach out to other areas and connect us with the common goal of preserving our planet for future generations.

The Wallenpaupack Area High School, which I am proud to be a part of, has an extensive recycling program.  In every classroom, office, and part of our building we have designated containers for recycling.  These containers explain what can and cannot be recycled on them.  Our teachers encourage us to recycle within the classrooms and point out where these containers are in each of our room.  Each week, because of the number of items recycled, students collect all the items from our overflowing classroom containers and bring them to a room for sorting, and then finally off to the recycling center.  Our middle school has also recycled old printer cartridges and cell phones through the “FundingFactory ® Recycling Program”.  This program is a free fundraiser that benefits everyone by recycling these products that would only be taking up space in our landfills, and gives the district funds for needed programs. The FundingFactory has been around for almost twenty years.  During that time over 136,735 participants have earned $33.5 million.  Even more impressive is that this organization alone has kept 43.3 million pounds of these materials out of landfills.

Every day I recycle at home.  I have two garbage cans from County Waste in Greeley.  Our “green” one is for our recycled items.  It amazes me how little is placed in our regular trash.  County Waste throughout Pennsylvania and Virginia have 350,000 residential customers and recycle 300,000 pounds of trash each day, that would clog up our landfills. Even though I am only one person and cannot make a tremendous difference, many people just like me working together to preserve our planet can make a remarkable impact on our environment.  County Waste is not the only waste collection company in our area that places recycling at the top of its list.  Waste Management in our area has its “Think Green” initiative that is used throughout the country.  In their 2016 Sustainability Report “Leading Change Reinvigorating the Spirit of Environmental Stewardship” they promote recycling and use the gas byproducts of landfills to create energy.  They believe that 84% of all greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced if only 32% of the waste stream was reduced and recycled.  These two companies represent the many waste disposal businesses that work within our community, striving to preserve our rural environment through recycling, and the reduction of our carbon footprint.

Wayne County Recycling in Beach Lake operates every day except Sunday.  It enables people to drop off all recyclable items to their main facility for free.  Tires and appliances can be dropped off for a small fee and occasionally electronics are collected.  In addition to these items the recycling center has many specialized programs.  It has a backyard composting program and Christmas tree chipper program that turns this waste into mulch.  Programs that are provided at Wayne Country Recycling Center help in reducing the amount of debris that would be found on our back roads.  With programs such as these, there is no reason for someone to dump old tires and appliances on someone else’s property, just because of the remote setting.

Recycling in our schools, promoting household garbage separation containers, or drop off centers for larger items has created great progress in recycling in our rural community.  But we cannot stop there.  We must look outside of our area at recycling efforts elsewhere that we can adopt in our community.  Some of these areas lie in the development of biodiesel fuels, the use of sewage sludge, and composting containers.

There are recycling efforts elsewhere that could be adopted in our rural community.  Used restaurant oils and discarded animal fats can be turn into a biodiesel product.  According to the US Department of Energy, biodiesels produce cleaner environmental emissions when compared to normal fuel sources.  If these fuels are spilled in the environment, their impact is far less than with petroleum diesel products.   Biodiesels are safer when handling, transporting and storing because they ignite at a temperature approximately 80 degrees Celsius higher than petroleum products.

Sewage sludge is another product that could be recycled in our area.  Companies like Casella Organics recycle organic and mineral resources.  They can create pellets from sewage to power coal fired power plants.  This would create a renewable fuel source for the power plant and greatly reduce the amount of sewage ash sent to the landfills.  The use of our local sewage sludge to create these pellets would reduce the cost of removing and processing the waste, and create a product with less emissions than coal.  The emissions given off in other counties, that supply our energy, effect the air quality of our rural area.

Composting containers could reduce the number of products in our landfills by recycling our food products into compost.  San Francisco signed a mandatory recycling and composting law in 2009.  While I do not think we should have such a law, I believe that having a third bin for composting would be a great way of further recycling and reducing the amount of materials on our landfills. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment believed that 90% of the garbage originally meant for the landfills would be diverted from them through the recycling and compost programs with this new law in affect.  Imagine the impact this could have on our neighborhoods and our landfills, if only half of the families also practiced composting.

Recycling programs are important to our rural community because it helps to preserve the beauty and health of our area.  Our rural community does not boost of the manufacturing plants, industrial sites, sky scrapers, or multiple lanes on the highway.  What we have is much more precious.  It is the crisp clean air, the clear water teaming with fish, lush green meadows and forest, and the animals that live there.  We have something much more valuable.  Recycling helps us to maintain those things that we hold dear.  By recycling we help to maintain the quality of our air, water, and land, not to mention the beauty of the area around us.

Recycling is only a first step in preserving our rural community.  We need to look at ways of replacing or eliminating our disposable items that clutter up our landfills.  The University of Nottingham and Nile University in Egypt are creating bags made of shrimp shells.  These new bags are biodegradable and a wonderful replacement for the conventional plastic bags and wraps for food items.  This new product has also kept the food fresher than the traditional plastic wraps.

We can also substitute other products to reduce our waste.   Taking old t-shirts and creating tote bags with them for groceries are both great ways to recycle old clothing and not use plastic bags for items.  Refilling our own containers with water, instead of using disposable water bottles, or bringing our own thermoses to McDonalds or Dunkin Donut will drastically cut down on disposable containers we throw away each day. Packaging lunches in a reusable bag or container will greatly reduce our waste throughout the course of the year.  Donating old clothes, electronics, and furniture to organizations like the salvation army or selling them at a local flea market instead of throwing them out promotes recycling.  What may be old junk to you could be the treasure someone has been looking for and the best way to recycle by giving that old item new life with someone else.

 

 

Works Cited

“Connecting Causes, Communities, and the Environment.” Funding Factory, www.fundingfactory.com/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018.

Meinhold, Bridgette. “San Francisco Signs Mandatory Recycling & Composting Laws.” Inhabitat, inhabitat.com/san-francisco-mandates-recycling-composting/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018.

“Waste Management 2016 Sustainablilty Report.” Waste Management, sustainability.wm.com/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018.

“Welcome to County Waste.” County Waste, MRG, county-recycling.com/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2018.