A team of 13-year-olds from Phillips Middle School is revolutionizing the way Chapel Hill deals with trash.
The eighth-graders, who call themselves the Trash Terminators, work toward decreasing the amount of waste thrown away in schools. They introduced composting bins to their school after the Orange County Municipal Solid Waste Landfill closed July 1.
“We’re going to be shipping our trash 100 miles away, which will be making a lot of greenhouse gases, spending a lot of money and it’s going to be very bad for the environment,” said Rohan Deshpande, a student who started the team last year. “We wanted to divert as much waste as possible.”
Team member Vincent Chen said 80 percent of Phillips’ trash is either recyclable or compostable this year.
The team promoted the cause at the Walk for Education, Festifall and the Chapel Hill Public Library, teammate Quentin Sieiedzki said.
The team is currently participating in the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national competition that challenges teenagers to address an environmental issue within their community.
“We’ve been doing that through videos, through PowerPoints, through announcements on the news and writing articles to our school newspaper,” said Chen. “I think it’s really started something.”
Last year, the Trash Terminators won the national Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.
Deshpande is the only team member who has participated both years in a row.
“Last year was about reducing the amount of liquids in trash and recycling, but this year it’s more about composting,” he said.
The Trash Terminators calculated they will divert 10 tons of waste by going to landfills each year. The team plans to bring their composting initiative to the other middle schools in the district to bring that number up to 40.
After that, they intend to bring the issue to the mayor.
Their website features a survey to gauge community interest in municipal composting.
“I think that composting is something that everybody should be doing,” said team member Arden Reynolds. “It’s something that I do at home.”
Sieiedzki said the project is a no-brainer.
“It even costs less than to just throw stuff away,” he said. “There’s no reason not to compost.”
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