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Friday, May 6, 2016

Teen brings recycling age to Storm Lake High School

Monday, December 24, 2012

Maximillian Franze-Soeln laughingly described himself as "tree hugger," but you're much more likely to find the Storm Lake High School senior lugging a box of paper garbage than cuddling a crabapple.

Max has grown up with a love of the outdoors and an interest in environmental issues, and when he was looking to make a mark on his school, it made sense to try to make the building a little more green.

"I wanted to do something to make a difference before I leave here. I guess you could call it a senior project," he said. He noticed the mountain of wastepaper that gets tossed out on a daily basis, and decided to see if it could be recycled.

As a member of the Key Club civic group, he found support from the other member students. And when he went to Genesis Work Activity Center, they were willing to take all the paper Max and his school could muster.

When the paper is sold on the recycling market, any profit stays with Genesis, which provides work and experience for disabled area citizens.

The school goes through two six-ream cases of paper a day, perhaps twice that around final exam time, Max figures, along with lots of posterboard, and plenty of discarded notebook paper and other paper products left behind by the students.

Following Max's plan, recycling boxes were placed in nearly every academic room in the building, about 50 in all. Near the end of each week, a student volunteer collects all the paper from the containers to be taken to Genesis. It takes about 40 minutes to make the rounds.

Max didn't want any one student or group to be burdened by the effort, so the Key Club and the student council take alternating turns, each providing one of its members as a volunteer during its responsibility period.

Teachers were quickly on board with the idea and are dutifully using the boxes, but it may just be the custodians who are the most enthusiastic. "All that paper gets pretty heavy, and they say that their backs don't hurt any more from hauling all that to the dumpsters," Max says.

The senior would love expand the project, but unfortunately, there currently is no productive recyclables market for some of the waste the school produces, such as cardboard.

Instead, after the holiday break, Max wants to concentrate on making his recycling idea into official procedure, perhaps needing to approach the board of education.

"Recycling is a great idea anywhere, but a lot of times it gets started, and later people just kind of forget about it," he says. "I want to get this ingrained into the school's consciousness - I want it to be something that will last long after I'm gone."

"Every school in any first world country should be involved in recycling. It is sorely needed," Max says. An educational institutions, they should lead the way in their communities, and he feels that if young people get used to recycling early, they will continue the habit throughout their lives.

While he has a semester left, Maximilian plans to sit in on a Buena Vista University class on current issues in mankind's impact on the environment. He's considering a college minor in biology or environmental preservation.

He hopes to propose one more idea before the final bell rings on his Storm Lake education. "I think it would be great to have a student-driven recycling program at all of the school building in the city, from the elementary on up," he says. "If we can get that far, our district should have a reputation as a very environmentally aware and active one."

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