Fairfax High School’s colors may be blue, gray, and white, but things have been looking green and purple recently. One of the schools newest additions in extracurricular clubs and activities is a branch of the Glass Recycling Network (GRN), a service organization that aims to “make recycling glass convenient while not sacrificing the proper procedure.”, according to Fairfax HS's GRN president Ryan McManus. The senior found out about the club through another FCPS high schooler, and was drawn to the “measurable impact” of the club.
Fairfax County and Fairfax City no longer collects glass curbside from the blue bins, as it is difficult to process and creates hazards for the machinery and workers. Much of the glass residents put in the blue bins still end up in landfills. To provide a way to recycle glass, the city and county have provided purple receptacles to collect glass. However, the collection requires residents to find and dispose of their glass on their own. Glass Recycling Network mobilizes environmentally conscious students, allowing them to reach out into neighborhoods and collect glass to bring to the purple receptacles every month. The club keeps track of just how many glass bottles they collect, and works to increase the number of neighborhoods where they can have an impact.
McManus notes that the targeted focus of the GRN makes it different from many other clubs at Fairfax HS, but sees that specificity as a strength. “We can focus our energy on the issue and, in turn, make a more meaningful difference.” he says, and it seems many other students do too. The leadership team of six students from many grade levels help facilitate the club's activities. Without monthly meetings, GRN leadership is able to help members set up networks in their neighborhoods step by step, and offer guidance via online connections as needed once the networks are established. The self-motivated club members are rewarded with the knowledge that they are directly helping their community and the environment, as well as earning service hours for their hard work.
Ryan wants to see this club become the biggest at Fairfax HS after he graduates. He would like the club to expand into more neighborhoods, and even reach out to local businesses and collect from them as well. With faith in the members of the club and his fellow officers that aren’t graduating this year, McManus believes the club could reach a collective goal of recycling over 50,000 glass bottles by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Headed off to college next year, Ryan wants to bring the cause of the club to his school freshman year.
Wondering how you can help? “If the Glass Recycling Network has already reached your neighborhood, then the best thing that you can do is to be an active participant in your neighborhood's network. Take advantage of the service, and spread the word to other neighbors,” says McManus. If there isn’t a network in your neighborhood, McManus urges high schoolers near them to join the club and offer the service to their area, or make time to recycle glass on their own in one of the purple bins in the county. “The most important thing is that glass gets recycled correctly. It only takes an extra 10-15 minutes once every month or so, and the impact goes a long way,” said McManus. Find the time to make a difference, and, like these Fairfax HS Lions, think green and purple.
Morgan Shake is a senior at Fairfax HS.