Paper recycling program turns trash into cash

Go Green |  © Acorn Newspapers
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 © Acorn Newspapers
The Environmental Club at Camarillo High School began a paper recycling program earlier this year on the Camarillo campus. Students and school staff members have worked together to make the recycling program not only beneficial to the planet but also as a small money maker for the newly started club. Members include, front row from left, Ana Garcia, Mary Ramos, Stephanie Garcia, Evelynn Garcia and Vivian Garcia. Those in the back row are Roger Pichardo, Lori McVicker, Elizabeth McVicker, Christine Bruggman, Dalena Motts, Glenn Lipman and Susan Thee. © Acorn Newspapers
Stephanie Garcia has always been conscious of the environment.

Her father works for the California Conservation Core, and he always impressed upon her the importance of taking care of the world around her.

Stephanie, 17, remembers going to beach cleanups at an early age, and her family has always prided itself on recycling at home, which is why the Camarillo High senior has introduced a paper recycling program to the high school campus.

Stephanie said she noticed how the campus recycled cans and bottles but not paper.

Students go through plenty of paper, especially with Advanced Placement classes, she said.

The teen’s goal is to not only recycle paper on campus but also make students more cognizant of their impact on the environment. Stephanie, who describes herself as shy, never saw herself leading this type of project.

“I’ve never been the type of person that was like, ‘Oh, I should go do this,’ but I thought it was important enough for me, and I decided to do something about it,” Stephanie said.

She has been working on the program for a year and a half, since she was a junior. Stephanie said the program has started small, with four 32-gallon bins placed at four wings on campus, the C, D, K and administration buildings. Cardboard boxes for collecting paper have been placed in classrooms.

Stephanie wants to see the program expand to cover the entire campus by the end of the school year.

“We decided to be organized and smart about it and start with four buildings and work out the kinks and see how we can make sure the recycling program stays in place for the rest of school (and) even next year and the next year and the next year,” she said.

At first, she underestimated the amount of work involved. Stephanie thought the program would simply start once she placed collection bins around campus.

She learned, however, that it took a lot more hard work.

“I thought it was going to be easy, but it wasn’t because there was a whole bunch of steps you have to go through,” Stephanie said.

Those steps included contacting Roger Pichardo, the city’s recycling coordinator, who asked her to write him a letter detailing her plans.

Stephanie also met with Camarillo High Principal Glenn Lipman, who asked her a variety of questions and told her she needed to involve an adult on campus. Susan Thee, a teacher in the science department, became involved.

A group dubbed Environmental Club has been formed and so far, Stephanie said, around 12 students have joined. Thee serves as an adviser.

By having a club, students can collect the recycling proceeds and put them toward environmental activities, Stephanie said.

She said students can receive community service hours for participating in the club.

Pichardo has provided advice on how to organize the club and activities they can do. Counselor Christine Bruggman has helped get teachers involved.

“She’s been real pivotal in getting this off the ground,” Thee said.

Lori McVicker, who has a daughter at the school, has been involved with recycling programs at La Mariposa Elementary and Las Colinas Middle schools.

McVicker helped Stephanie connect with RSI Services, a privately owned business in Camarillo that provides free collection containers, secure onsite shredding, and pickup and delivery of the paper to a recycling facility in Ventura County.

RSI will give the school $20 for each ton of paper recycled, with the money going to the Environmental Club.

McVicker said having a student involved is important in getting a recycling program started on campus.

“You can never start these from the outside,” McVicker said. “You need someone on the inside who’s interested.”

Teachers have taken to the program and are contacting Bruggman to find out how they can get involved.

“It’s kind of cool because teachers are actually into it,” Stephanie said. “They want to do something about it.”

The success of the recycling drive has been a confidence booster for Stephanie, who wants to major in political science in college and has aspirations of becoming involved with the United Nations.

“She is really incredible,” Thee said. “She is a real gogetter.”

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