About 182,000 pounds of trash pass through the Douglas Disposal transfer station each day, according to the department's operation manager Don Williams. But Douglas High School French language students are working to reduce that amount.
"Our sole objective is to raise awareness about recycling," said Kris Robison, Douglas High counselor and coordinator of the program.
Robison teamed up with Williams last year to improve the paper recycling program at the school.
"I lived in Germany for five years, and it changed my perception," Robison said. "I realized that Americans waste so much."
Williams said that last year the paper recycling program at Douglas High saved 8,040 pounds of trash from the landfill.
"The fact of the matter is that there is only a certain amount of space where we can dump materials," he said. "The recycling process in the Valley is only going to get bigger. It's something we need to take a hard look at and make a commitment to."
This year, Robison solicited students at Douglas High to help with a new plastic recycling program. The Block D Club bought 10 new trash bins, strategically placed around the school, and 22 members of Ashley Luoma's French class decided to manage the project.
"These kids are willing to do the dirty work," Robison said. "And the school administration and other faculty members have been so supportive."
Robison said the French students will be in charge of going through the cans each day and removing any nonplastic material; they'll also be responsible for transporting the material to the large drop bin in front of the school.
"We'll start moving the big rolling cans out to the field for special events so people can use them," Robison said.
She said the students would also be modeling the recycling process for their peers, showing them where the cans are and telling them what to throw away and what to recycle.
Williams said Douglas Disposal manages eight recycling drop-off bins around the Valley, including bins at Gardnerville Elementary, Scarselli Elementary and Jacks Valley Elementary schools and the new bins at Douglas High.
"So far this year, from all the bins, we've collected 382,000 pounds of recyclable material," said Williams. "Semi-trucks have already made 30 trips transporting the material to centers in Sacramento and the Pacific Northwest."
He estimated the new plastic recycling program at Douglas High would save 1,440 pounds of plastic from the landfill each year.
"We're doing this to help the environment and teach younger generations to help the planet," said Douglas senior and French student Aubrey King. "I am outdoorsy, and I want to maintain the beauty of the natural world, especially in a place like this."
Junior Edna Meza said she started recycling at her house before taking on the school project and couldn't believe how much plastic her family had been wasting.
"Our natural resources are decreasing," she said. "It's better to start recycling now than later."