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Gainesville High students recycle
Environmental Awareness Club members collect and recycle items at school and at football games
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Joey Summer, president of the Gainesville High School Environmental Awareness Club, collects recyclable bottles during halftime at a Gainesville football game. - photo by Tom Reed

Even if students, teachers or fans at a football game don't want to recycle, Joey Summer and his crew will pick up their trash anyway.

Summer, the president of the Gainesville High Environmental Awareness Club, has rounded up 50-plus high school students to team up and recycle paper at the school and plastic bottles at home football games.

"The football games are very big," said Alan Aguirre, vice president of the club. "Last football game we were the last at the end, and they turned the lights off on us."

The City Park staff provides the recycling bins, but the students provide the manpower to pick up the plastic bottles left behind by fans.

During the first Red Elephant home game on Sept. 12, the club recycled about 1,000 plastic bottles that fans left behind.

They also began collecting all of the caps from Coca-Cola brand bottles and submitting the codes to get My Coke Rewards.

"We are going to use the prizes for the club and the school to get more awareness," Summer said.

Along with recycling at football games, the club has designated hallway captains in certain parts of the school for recycling paper. Last year alone they collected about 34,000 pounds of paper and 1,081 books, which in turn saves about 250 trees.

"We've got a hallway directory; people go around and recycle (in) their hallways. It's their responsibility," said Summer, a senior at GHS. "We do it in a group and they get their hallways each week. There is a bin in each classroom."

The club provides the teal green recycling bins to each classroom and club members pick up the paper weekly.

"We knew we were capable as a school," said Teresa Leach, biology and environmental sciences teacher at GHS. "We go through so much paper and were sick of seeing it being thrown away.

"It's kind of funny, they put a box in each room that said recycling and I would put my paper in there and then I asked the janitor ‘Do you actually recycle this?' and he said ‘Yeah, into the garbage can.'"

So in the desperate need for student recycling leadership, Summer stepped in. He said he didn't start the club, but in the past year he has taken the helm.

"We're going to eventually ... go on nature hikes, go on trash clean-ups," Summer said. "Then I'm hoping we can go beyond recycling with a rain water system for the school and then maybe, my ultimate goal and dream is to get solar panels."

The club also collects cardboard and E-waste, like ink cartridges, cell phones and paper.

"I'm trying to expand it to get plastic (recycling) in the school," Summer said. "We go through about 1,000 bottles a day, so that is our biggest waste product. We could start to make a huge difference."

Although, Leach said there has been some resistance from some students and teachers to recycle in the classroom.

"We try to make the club as convenient as possible," she said. "It's not, ‘You have to do this.'"

Aguirre said anyone has time to recycle, especially at school.

"That's just a stupid excuse," he said. "Anyone has time for anything 'cause, well, I'm a treehugger, I always try to do the right thing and recycle or not throwing away scrap paper.

"I try and use the back (of the paper). My notebook is a mess right now because of all the scrap paper ... I'm pretty sure everyone has time to recycle at least once a day."



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