Hannah Elliot, secretary of Clearwater Secondary School’s (CSS) Youth Council, and Josee Cooperman, Grade 11 representative for the group, were among those who presented a letter to the District of Clearwater asking for a ban on single-use plastic bags in town. CSS Youth Council is also making changes to the school’s recycling program to make CSS more environmentally friendly. Photo submitted

CSS Youth Council fights for the environment

Making school, as well as the community at large, more environmentally friendly

Clearwater Secondary School’s (CSS) Youth Council has started taking steps toward making the high school, as well as the community at large, more environmentally friendly.

At the school level, CSS has put a stop to the use of plastic ziplock bags in the cafeteria and is looking at sectioned recycling bins, mostly to address the abundance of Tim Horton’s cups that account for a large part of the school’s waste.

To help its efforts Youth Council brought in waste reduction coordinator with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD), Andrew Roebbelen, to give a presentation on recycling to help make everyone more aware of changes the group plans on making.

“(Within) our student council, most of us are pretty passionate about the environment and we think talking about it is good, but we need to start taking action now,” said Josee Cooperman, Grade 11 representative for the CSS Youth Council.

“We did have a bin for Tim Horton’s cups for a couple of weeks, but most of the stuff that ended up in those bins wasn’t what was supposed to go in there; it’s difficult for kids to leave class just to dispose of their garbage properly so we thought we’d have to make it more accessible and we asked the rep from the TNRD to come and give a presentation on recycling to make kids more receptive for when we do actually bring in the new recycling bins.”

One of the problems with recycling at CSS is the matter of whose responsibility it will be to sort through the waste materials, with Cooperman noting it’s been “really kind” teachers disposing of the recycling in their respective classrooms themselves, and after getting the new bins, one of the next steps will be finding a dedicated person to take on the task going forward.

Roebbelen added the initiative is feasible and elaborated a bit on what it would take to get it off the ground.

“They brought me in to speak specifically about the duel stream recycling they want to get into the schools; they want to be able to divert a lot of that single use stuff, like Tim’s cups and Dairy Queen cups they’re finding a lot of in their waste streams, and if they were to properly sort and make sure those things are empty, they could actually be recycled at the eco-depot,” he said.

“They’re looking at a split recycle bin, something that’s going to accommodate signs above to make it really clear for students and staff to know what goes in each side of the recycle bin—the challenge now is for them to work with their collector to bring that material separate from garbage.”

At the community level, the Youth Council went before the District of Clearwater (DOC) Council to present a letter, urging the DOC to ban single-use plastic bags in the municipality.

“We presented it in front of the city council and they asked us what we’d want to do on a smaller scale in our school, that’s when we came up with the idea of the sectioned recycling bins,” Cooperman said.

“They seemed really interested and I think a lot of (council members) were excited the youth were coming to them; I believe it will happen eventually, but of course change comes slowly and there will have to be small steps taken before banning them completely, but I think that it’s realistic in the next few years.”

Roebellen added CSS Youth Council isn’t the first group in the TNRD to wage war on single-use plastic bags, with similar advocates in Kamloops trying to ban the items in the city.

According to Roebellen, Victoria is the only city in B.C. to ban the single-use plastic completely and is also the first in Canada to follow through with the initiative.


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