Burning with Thoughts: Environmental Leaders’ and Pembroke Pines Recycling


Graphic by Megan Ingram

Gabriela Carvajal, Web Manager

   As the new year cements into reality, Pembroke Pines has started off the new year with new policies, starting with its readjustment to its recycling procedure. Effective as of January 1, 2022, all waste/recyclable materials will be collected within the same trash bin and be transported to a Waste-to-Energy facility and be converted into electricity via incineration. This newfound recycling policy has shaken local residents and the environmental community to the core given the risks it invites. For Charter’s environmental leaders, juniors Rania Imran and Maria Funes, they see this newfound policy change as a threat to what has been deep rooted into society as being “a traditional habit”. As President and Vice President of the Environmental Club they have a keen sense of what the community calls for given their involvement in the club. So, what does Pembroke Pines’ new recycling policy mean for the future of our community and the Environmental Club?

   With a downward trend in the global recycling market and the contamination issues recyclable materials face the city has resorted to this transition. However, the city hopes this will offset the need for fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (SOURCE) As publicly noted,  the Wheelabrator South Broward Waste-to-Energy plant would reduce waste volumes by 90% and can produce as much as 66 megawatts of electricity (which can be used to power over 38,000 homes!). (PPines announcement) Even with this “good news” Raina sees this differently: “I thought there would be a different way to respond to this waste crisis and instead of burning materials, how about weeding and then sending it to another county to recycle the clean goods…”

   What’s troubling is that with incineration there are consequences. In releasing air pollutants, heavy metals (i.e. lead/mercury), and toxic chemicals (i.e. PFAS/dioxins) it increases the likelihood of developing lung, heart, neurological diseases as well as cancer in areas that are in close proximity with the Waste-to-Energy plant. For Maria these concerns struck her as problematic as she quotes, “The health of our community is going to be gravely affected… unfortunately. It’s ironic because at first I thought it was just going to be mixed with printer papers that were the ones not being recycled apart from plastics.”

   In fact when Raina and Maria first heard about this back in November they were not surprised since “Broward county does not recycle.” This is true since the  2020 total county recycling credits cited Broward county as having the 21st recycling rank with a traditional recycling rate of 31%; comparatively, Miami Dade ranked 36, holding a traditional recycling rate of 19%. When asked about this Raina pointed out Miami Beach’s initiatives in banning the use of plastic straws and while its success is unknown she made it a point to mention how interesting it is to see how other cities/counties are taking a recycling initiative, especially when on looks to Palm Beach – who holds the 4th best recycling ranking in the state. For Maria and Raina this symbolizes where our environmental priorities are in comparison to neighboring counties.

   Seemingly, Maria made reference to the lack of attention there is to recycling at Charter. Before this policy took place, PPCHS once had a club that facilitated the school’s recycling duties, however based upon sponsor Ms. Ramos during an Environmental Meeting it turns out the school has stopped recycling altogether! To counter this the Environmental Club hopes that in the future they can take on the recycling responsibility and bring back the green spirit. “Since the Environmental Club is still in its infancy we will find a way to target a better way for us as a school to recycle. As successful as the previous administration was in changing the school lunch containers we will find our breaking point!,” Rania says. 

   In the meantime, the Environmental club is gearing up to start a garden! With materials underway, Rania and Maria couldn’t be more excited for this to become their own contribution to the local environment. As Rania states, “Next year we want to take on the environmental cause at Charter and we want to bring forth the messaging behind making a change in the environmental mindset. This means that our impact as a club will be profound as we will showcase through knowledge and active participation what it means to be a member of the Green community.” 

   As exciting as it is, the Environmental club is gearing up to take back its “green” crown and reinstate healthy habits within the grades. In focusing on the interest they have retained, Maria and Raina are ready to challenge these recycling odds with their upcoming plans for the rest of this school year. Stay tuned for updates about their garden in the coming weeks!