The best part about handling the recycling at Pleasanton Middle School is that it earns money for the school and is good for the environment, said eighth-grader Diane Hadley, who heads up the effort along with Shaurya Gupta.
The worst part is when it rains, the recyclables get wet, and the water weighs down the barrels.
All in all, it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.
Enter the Leadership Class, led by teacher Gabriele Klein. Those students took over the task last year, said Vice Principal Matt Campbell; before that, parent groups were handling it.
Fifty-six eighth-graders go through Leadership in the two semesters. Student body officers attend the entire year, such as Diane, who is spirit commissioner, and Shaurya, who is vice president. Last semester they worked as recyclers; now they oversee the endeavor.
Klein has seen the class grapple with the best way to empty the school's many recycling containers into the Dumpsters to be picked up by Pleasanton Garbage Co.
"We've tried it different ways," she said. "Last year we just had one group in charge."
There are some problems, remarked Klein. Sometimes people break into the Dumpsters so they can turn in the recyclables themselves.
"We've had people drive up with trucks," she said.
Now the entire class tackles the bins every Wednesday during fourth period while half of the school is eating its lunches. Diane and Shaurya lead the way, unlocking the bins that are conveniently placed around the campus and the Dumpsters in back.
"Some people have rollers," said Shaurya, for when the bins are full and heavy. Other times two students will carry a bin together.
Also although in theory recycling should be clean, often students throw garbage into the wrong containers so the Leadership class has to sort through the plastic and cans.
"It's a smelly, smelly job," said Klein. "I have to give my kids so much credit for it."
"It teaches them responsible behavior," she added, "and they're being role models for the other kids."
Last week the class members quickly donned their yellow rubber gloves when the period began and headed out to the lunch area. Kendyll Woolsey and Chloe Connolly headed to the recycling bins on the south side of campus.
"Those are the farthest but it good because they aren't as full," said Kendyll.
They like them light enough to lift rather than drag.
"That's not good for the bins," noted Chloe.
When Chloe made her last drop, Shaurya was waiting to lock the Dumpster. Chloe said they sometimes find "gnarly stuff," like diapers or beer bottles, which are often left from parents who attend games at the fields.
Meanwhile the juice residue in the Dumpster accumulates a distinctive odor, which Shaurya said is caused as the juices ferment into alcohol. He also pointed out spiders and flies.
Administrators appreciate the volunteer effort by the Leadership students.
"We have 1,200 kids eating here every day and those things fill up quickly," said Vice Principal Campbell. "That's why I'm so proud of them. They do a hard job."
The recycling earns about $350 per month for the school.
"Some of it is used to help leadership students with supplies - gloves and things - and we are putting money toward starting a garden on campus," said Campbell. "We are also using the money for Earth Day activities this week."
All in all, the students tackle the task with enthusiasm. As Diane said, it's good for the environment, plus it earns money for the school - despite the down and dirty aspects it's a noble project.