I sometimes wish I could follow behind them after they toss trash, like the Septa who accompanied Cersei Lannister on her infamous walk of contrition, intoning “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
Over the years we recognized the need to nip the problem in the proverbial bud, and the way to do that is, not surprisingly, through educating our young people about litter before they ever acquire the habit. To that end, we partnered with a variety of organizations to bring a curriculum developed by JASON Learning to our schools.
JASON Learning is a nonprofit organization and long-time partner of the National Geographic Society. Founded in 1989 by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, the mission of JASON is to inspire and educate kids everywhere through real science and exploration. They partnered with the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) on a national recycling awareness campaign to help students and educators understand the importance of recycling and the recycling industry. ISRI represents recyclers that divert more than 100 million tons of materials from landfills each year.
Staten Island Borough Hall, Pratt Industries, JASON, ISRI, GrowNYC, the Department of Education (DOE) and the Sanitation Department (DSNY) have joined in a public private partnership (PPP) to educate students in Staten Island schools with a pro-recycling/anti-litter message. So far 35 schools (public and parochial), and over 50 staff members, including DOE officials, have received training in the STEM-based recycling and sustainability curriculum.
As you are no doubt aware, since taking office we have been engaged in many efforts to combat the litter problem on Staten Island. The JASON Learning curriculum resulted from a meeting I had last summer with the folks from Pratt Industries. At that meeting, they informed me about the ISRI/JASON Learning curriculum, and their ability to secure the necessary resources through Pratt’s membership in ISRI.
DOE and GrowNYC were immediately on board and helped us bring this curriculum, along with the Recycling Champions Program, to these Island schools. The Recycling Champions Program develops model recycling programs at over 100 NYC public schools each year, educating students, staff, and custodians about recycling.
Staten Island is one of only three municipalities in the nation that ISRI is supporting for JASON Learning, the others being pilot programs in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Baltimore, Maryland. This August, ISRI is hosting a Webinar for stakeholders in their organization to discuss our model and our success on Staten Island, and at a recent ISRI Board of Directors meeting in Washington DC, Staten Island was mentioned as the most successful ISRI/Jason program in the country.
Pratt Industries will generously bear the cost and host at their paper mill in Travis the professional development for staff from participating schools. They will also host school tours at their Staten Island facility for participating schools so students can see firsthand how the paper recycling process works.
It is important to note that the paper recycled at Pratt stays right here on Staten Island, where Pratt makes it into new paper and then makes that paper into new boxes, predominantly pizza boxes used by many of our pizzerias. Pratt has also donated recycling bins that have been placed in participating schools.
So this is an important part of our holistic approach to battling the bane of litter. We will continue to engage the public with aggressive and edgy awareness campaigns, send our Clean Team out wherever and whenever we can, encourage residents and businesses to join in the cleanup, remind businesses and homeowners about their legal responsibilities to keep the area around their property clean, and educate our young people.
Perhaps, someday in the not-so-distant future, through educating our younger generation, we can eliminate the need for litter “walks of shame” entirely.