Despite a study by Laura Wray-Lake (2010) identifying a “decline in high school seniors’ reports of conservation behaviors across the three decades of 1976 to 2005,” a more recent United Nations article reports that “close to half a million youth around the world have taken action on climate change through SGP (Small Grants Programmes) projects in their homes, schools and communities.” They are among a youth population (15 to 24 years old) of approximately 1.2 billion.
Considering that “youth constitute the majority of the population in many countries and have an increasingly strong social and environmental awareness (UN)” and, in the United States alone, 85 percent of people under 30 identify themselves as environmentalists, we must have great faith in our young generation.
"The youth is the hope of our future" — Jose Rizal.
Lillian Tolley, who is a student at Melbourne High School and part of the school’s Environmental Awareness club, is a local example of why we should keep the faith.
In the summer of 2021, she joined Recycle Brevard as a volunteer after learning about Recycle Brevard’s Recycleware Dental Program, a program that includes the distribution of information cards and collection of used plastic toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes and dental floss containers for recycling.
What started as a requirement in a college class for Tolley became a mission to educate herself and others on the 3Rs — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — and help to reduce waste in her community.
“The dental program is smart and straightforward. It takes every-day objects, such as toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes, which are normally thrown in the trash, and gives them an alternative to filling up our landfills,” Tolley said.
With the goal of getting local schools and clubs to adopt the program and help our community to recycle more, Tolley started contacting neighborhood schools to explain the program and how they could participate. She believes that it is important to get more people involved for the program to have a considerable impact. Thus far, she managed to enlist Merritt Island High School and Melbourne High School but she does not intend to stop there.
“High schoolers are widely known for their use of technology and can reach a bunch of people at the touch of a button.” Even if they do not want to organize collections, she believes they are able to spread the word and recruit others to participate.
Anyone can collect or set up a collection point. Neighborhoods, scout troops, businesses and churches can join the effort. Recycle Brevard provides material that supports the program and its facility in Rockledge is the drop-off location for collected items.
“It really is rewarding to get involved and fight for what you believe in. The program is pretty low maintenance. Once the idea has gone through the chains of command, all that is left to do is place the bins and drop collected items off at Recycle Brevard once bins fill up,” Tolley explained. “We need people to care and take action.”
"I said ‘Somebody should do something about that.’ Then I realized I was somebody" — Lily Tomlin
To learn more about the program and get started in the new year, email Recycle Brevard at Volunteer@RecycleBrevard.org.