An e-waste recycling fundraiser helps to fund AP Environmental field trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.
AP Environmental and Leadership have teamed up to run an e-waste recycling fundraiser where all used electronics can be donated instead of thrown away. Beginning early in the second semester and ending on March 1, the community was asked to participate in the recycling fundraiser. Electronics contain rare Earth elements that are mined, leading to forest degradation in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa. Mining usually follows unsustainable methods, such as storing toxic waste in tailings that can break open and release sludge into the lush forests, and can often result in years upon years of restoring the land back to what it once was. E-waste fundraising prevents excess mining and recycles these rare Earth elements to be reused in future electronics. Brett Butera, the AP Environmental science teacher, stated, “Extracting these metals from the earth has a huge impact on ecology and our environment, if we simply take our phone we just retired and recycle it, then that closes the loop, keeps the metals in the system and keeps us from digging in the Earth to get more.” Leadership hopes that the fundraiser will collect at least 30 used devices, which will help raise a minimum of $100. With the help of the community, any previous and present AP Environmental students will have the opportunity to use the funds to take a field trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to conduct an environmental research project.
Mining is horrifically detrimental to ecosystems surrounding the mined area, and the consequences can be seen all around. Species are put at risk of endangerment, and already endangered species that are inflicted by mining, such as the mountain gorilla, are now in jeopardy of facing extinction. Plants that are native to a specific area are lessening as well and are releasing excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since they act as a carbon sink, which is defined as a forest, ocean, or other natural environmental means of sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Leadership senior Julio Munoz- Bruno voiced, “Instead of throwing phones into the trash, people could search for these kinds of organizations that just help you recycle all of your used electronics.” The goal of the fundraiser is to spread awareness, specifically how humans as a whole are affecting the planet and how fastly we’re degrading our environment in order to advance in technology. AP Environmental sophomore Joe McComb mentioned, “Students should be more conscious about the decisions they make and how it affects the environment and the world around them.” By recycling used electronics, students are helping to create a safer and more sustainable world for future generations.
This will be one of TJ’s first eco-friendly fundraisers, benefitting both students and the community. Students will be given the opportunity to conduct a tree inventory research study, which goes hand-in-hand with a Citizen Science Program that Butera is attempting to integrate into his class. Citizen Science is a way for students to learn more about the environment and how it influences our lives, which then benefits the park because students can decide things like where facilitated migration could be implemented from research collected by students. “There’s toxic chemicals in electronics like cadmium, carcinogens, and neurotoxins, and if they get into the water table, that’s not good for us. Don’t let it sit in your closet, those metals could be recycled and they could be in the newest version of the iPhone, instead we go into the Earth to get those,” explained Butera.
At the end of the fundraiser, the students managed to collect 23 devices resulting in roughly $307 with an estimated profit of $150. In hopes the fundraiser will be successful enough to run every year, Butera expressed, “Since we’re so dependent and just captivated by our electronic devices, all of us, just to get the message out that there’s a cost to using these devices and we can reduce the degradation that occurs in other parts of the world.” The overall message is to reduce, reuse, and recycle, which in turn will be for the greater good of humanity. All recycling efforts will help; it only takes one person to make a change.