OPINION: Throw it Away


Photo: Nora Jacobsen Custodians Reed Richards and Warren Runnals strike a pose in the cafeteria.

Nora Jacobsen

Cleaning up after ourselves is not a humanitarian act worthy of praise. It is a simple sign of respect. When you leave a mess, intentional or not, the effect is the same: custodians are forced to take time out of their already full day to pick up after you.

After each lunch period, the tables and floors of the cafeteria are littered with dozens of abandoned plates, drinks, plastic utensils, and wrappers. Many of these messes are deliberate: dumped milk, juices, and food smashed on the walls are typical. 

We are all guilty from time to time of not picking up our trash. Maybe there was justification like “forgetting” or “running late”. Whatever the reason, there is a notion that it is someone else’s job to pick up after us. But the trash we leave behind adds hours to the custodians’ workload. 

At BHS, there are ten custodians for the six buildings and all of the grounds, three who work from 6:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and seven who are on the clock from 2:30 p.m -11 p.m. 

Photo: Chris Charbonneau
Trash left behind “Not bad today,” according to head custodian Chris Charbonneau

On a typical day the custodians’ responsibilities include: unlocking the building and turning on all the lights, cleaning the classrooms in all six buildings, checking the elevators and fire extinguishers, cleaning the nurse’s station, the lobby, halls and bathrooms, handling the mail, unloading delivery trucks, doing regular asbestos checks of the floor tiles, maintaining of the fields and school grounds, ordering supplies and more. 

In addition to these routine tasks, custodians are on call to respond to daily requests for service. According to Chris Charbonneau, the head custodian at BHS, the maintenance staff gets between 60 and 70 additional emails and calls for assistance a day. These may include putting together furniture, scraping graffiti off walls, and cleaning up rainwater, blood, and even vomit.

So no, cleaning up your trash is not “their job”. Their plates are full enough without having to pick up yours. But because so many students have this appallingly selfish mindset, they do.

Our mess sends a powerful message about who we are. We are inconsiderate.  

There are so many problems in the world that we don’t know how to solve, but picking up trash is one we can. So show some respect, and throw it away.