Over time, the littering on campus becomes harder and harder to ignore. Throughout every school day, trash is littered and left behind everywhere from the third floor balcony to the football field. Littering and trash on campus is an issue we shouldn’t have learned to just live with. You shouldn’t have to complete your bio quiz while someone’s apple core rots at your foot, or play volleyball in PE when the courts you are playing on have spilled chili and fruit cup juice on every line, nor should somebody else have to play with your milk and crust-less sandwich at their feet.
Littering in schools is a common problem that most cities face, but Los Angeles hardly has the time to worry about littering in school specifically when we face a major city wide garbage and littering problem. Between the years 2016 and 2020, there was a 450% increase in the number of complaints about trash. According to an LA Times article written earlier this year, LA Sanitation and Environment workers picked up nearly 16,000 tons of illegally dumped waste in 2019 compared with 8,900 tons in 2015 (Smith 2021). The same article explains how in some cases individuals and businesses illegally dump trash to avoid paying waste removal fees. Because dumping is illegal, sometimes people seek out spaces with already existing poor sanitary conditions, largely impacting homeless encampments.
The littering at Eagle Rock High School may not be dumping old mattresses or furniture on curb sides, but it still has a large impact on the community and environment of Eagle Rock students. In an interview with Assistant Principal Cisneros, she explained that littering comes in waves, “We were doing a great job of picking up our trash at the beginning of the school year, but now I can see that some of that has gone on the way side and that students are leaving way more trash, especially after lunch in the quad area.” A survey of 50 ERHS students showed that 89% of the surveyed students believe that littering has become an issue on campus.
The one thing that is unclear is the cause of on campus littering. In the same survey, the majority of students said that the main reason for on campus littering is laziness or carelessness, or having little to no consequences for littering. Ms. Cisneros explained, “I do think that there is a lot of attitude that someone is going to come behind me and clean it up so why do I need to clean it up? But I think that having accountability for our own actions is really important. If every student would just be responsible for throwing away the trash that they create, or even being a stellar Eagle and cleaning up trash that doesn’t belong to them, I think it would be better all around for all of us”.
A solution that often works in elementary schools is programs or set rules on the problem at hand, however Eagle Rock High School has tried many littering campaigns, not always providing the result they wanted. In just the three years Ms.Cisneros has worked here, ERHS has had campaigns such as, Don’t Be a Crow Be an Eagle, Pick Up After Yourself and The Two Steps to Not Littering. “I know that we also like to reward those that have thrown away their trash, so sometimes we go out there with incentives to ensure that kids are throwing away their trash”, Cisneros explained.
So, what’s the solution? There isn’t just one solution to littering, and it is an issue people are constantly trying to resolve, but picking up after yourself is the least you can do to help. “I still have a hard time understanding why students would not want to throw away their litter to make this the most beautiful campus that it possibly could be,” adds Cisneros. At the end of the day, littering is just making more work for the custodial staff, and an unsanitary and unenjoyable environment for your peers. One solution that you can help with yourself is not making your desk partner sit on your goldfish crumbs all month.
“If you really love where you are and what you're doing here, then you would want to keep this campus as beautiful as possible, and respect the ROCK by respecting our school”. These are the inspiring words of Assistant Principal Cisneros, and could never be more true.