Great Valley Middle School Students Aim to Curb Airline Waste

Sick of seeing so many recyclable cups and napkins tossed into the trash, four 13-year-olds puts their heads together to develop a solution. And if all goes according to plan, it might be part of your next flight.

(From left) Teacher Heather McGovern with students Justice Bennett, Sam Goldman and Lily Wang.On any one of this country’s 28,000 daily domestic flights, it’s a safe bet that passengers are drinking their beverage of choice from a plastic cup. It’s also a safe bet that it’s not going to be recycled. In addition to doing their homework, Justice Bennett, Lily Wang, Brendan Biles and Sam Goldman are doing whatever they can to get the word out to make airlines accountable for their wasteful ways.

Green credentials: Under the supervision of their eighth-grade teacher, Heather McGovern, these Great Valley Middle School students were spurred to action by Green America’s recent “airline report card,” which gave the recycling efforts of seven global airlines Ds and Fs. “Of the waste generated on an airline, 70 percent is recyclable—but only 20 percent actually is,” says Lily Wang.

Green innovation: A proposal for the RAT3K, a portable, wheeled cart that would allow flight attendants to collect used napkins, dump ice and recycle plastic cups with the help of a knobbed stacking device. “If the cups can fit on the plane stacked, they can leave the plane stacked,” says Justice Bennett.

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Bragging rights: The project is a contender for the Christopher Columbus Award, a national, community-based contest for middle school students. If chosen, they’ll receive funding to design and build the RAT3K.

Green dream: Naturally, Bennett and the others want to see the RAT3K rolling up and down the aisles of airliners everywhere. “The airlines will want to look good, and this is an expedient way to do it,” says Sam Goldman.

Click here to read about Malvern’s SolareAmerica.

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