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Campus Litter Reveals Decline in Student Respect

By John Kalil, Staff Writer

// Clean your room. Wash the dishes. Take out the trash. These commands regarding tidiness are often drilled into the heads of children from the time they are old enough to understand them. And yet, Acalanes High School has a student-created problem with trash that seems to have no end in sight.

   Every day at Acalanes, a bell rings to end lunch and sends students to their final class of the day. In their wake, however, many students fail to relocate their waste from lunch to the proper bins. Waste is left scattered around the school ground and on benches, creating an unfortunate eyesore.

   “At the end of lunch, kids leave all that mess. Our guy has to pick up everything, to make sure the school looks good,” Acalanes Custodian Francisco Lopez said, underscoring the amount of work that it takes for custodians to clean up after students.

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   To complicate matters, the custodial staff faces a severe shortage of staffing during the day, when most of the trash problem is created. With only one custodian on duty, the garbage problem is greatly exacerbated. 

   “We have one custodian and the gardener, and it takes them about two hours to clean up the whole school,” Lopez explained, noting that the waste issue is more prevalent in certain parts of the school.

   The front quad, the freshman quad, and the area between the kitchen and pool have the highest concentration of trash left after lunch, according to Lopez, with the freshman quad being the worst.

   The problem hasn’t gone unnoticed by students around campus. Sophomore Brooke Westphal has observed trash being left on the ground by other students during lunch this school year.

   “It’s disappointing to know that some kids either don’t care enough to throw it away, or they are trying to make some sort of statement. It’s not a nice sight to see trash laying around,” Westphal said.

   Lunch isn’t the only time that garbage is left around the school, however. Custodians often find litter in the parking lot (see page 11 for related coverage of the parking lot) left by students who hang out around the school after hours and over the weekends.

   “The problem is the parking lot at night time. Kids come and then leave all their garbage and litter,” Lopez said.

   Acalanes isn’t the only Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) member with a trash problem. Campolindo, Miramonte, and Las Lomas High School all have a varying degree of a problem with littering.

   “It happens mostly at lunch, but there is also some trash left from break,” Campolindo sophomore Patrick McLin said. “Usually there is at least some kind of trash can nearby, and I wonder why the person that littered couldn’t have just taken a few seconds to throw it away.”

   At Las Lomas in Walnut Creek, the same problem is present, according to Las Lomas sophomore Emma Casey, and reaches its peak after lunch. While Casey often picks up trash left by her classmates, the custodians still have a lot to clean.

   “I think it’s a bummer so many people think it’s okay to make the campus dirty and make the custodians’ work harder,” Casey said.

   Miramonte faces the same problem with littering.

   “The custodians do a good job of clearing it all up, but I think that they shouldn’t have to pick up after us if we can throw our trash away in the first place,” Miramonte sophomore Olivia Grillo said.

   Luckily, Acalanes is taking steps to combat the trash issue. The newly formed Environmental Board is focused on educating students and staff about both garbage and food waste and the impact that it has on the environment. The board hopes to be able to teach students about the importance of sorting items from lunch into the blue recycling and green compost bins.

   “Our goal is to have every member of the Acalanes family understand how to properly sort their waste and how important it is to limit that amount of waste,” sophomore Environmental Board member Zoe Smith said.

   Westphal offered up her own solution to Acalanes’ trash issue.

   “I think it’s just up to the kids to be able to throw their own trash away,” Westphal said.

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