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Henderson honors boy, 12, for efforts to improve recycling

In his two-piece black power suit , Lucas Shaw approached the Henderson City Council like any other official, dignitary or member of the community to accept recognition for his sustainability practices, which dramatically increased recycling in his neighborhood . However, unlike most who step to the podium, Lucas is 12.

“Our landfills are getting bigger,” Lucas said. “They are filled with lots of things that can be reused.”

As part of a sixth-grade science project at Hyde Park Middle School , 900 Hinson St., Lucas decided to look at recycling in Henderson, using 117 neighbors in his Seven Hills community as test subjects.

Lucas’ family always has been into recycling.

“I would always tell people, ‘Don’t throw it away because it can be recycled,’ ” said Laura Shaw, Lucas’ mother.

It was always bizarre for Lucas to find others who didn’t recycle, a common occurrence in the Las Vegas Valley.

According to Bob Coyle, vice president of government affairs for Republic Services, Henderson has about a 6 percent recycling rate, while the rest of the Las Vegas Valley has about a 3.5 percent rate.

“About 50 percent (of all things thrown away) can be recycled,” Coyle said.

Lucas learned these statistics after he met Coyle in 2010 at an open house that discussed recycling efforts.

“We get a lot of requests from young people wanting to learn about recycling,” Coyle said. “Lucas said he was interested in doing a science project. I told him I would help.”

With information from Republic Services in hand, Lucas dived into the world of trash and recycling.

Lucas did an initial survey of how many people in his neighborhood recycled . It was about 30 percent.

“These were the die-hard recyclers,” Shaw said. “They were going to recycle no matter what.”

When a pilot program started in Henderson, which eliminated the red, blue and white recycling crates and replaced them with one giant blue bin to hold all recyclable items, Lucas determined that recycling increased to about 62 percent.

But Lucas decided to further engage his neighbors and went door to door to survey them about recycling.

“I was trying to see if I could predict who would recycle or not,” Lucas said.

Lucas determined that people who are more likely recycle also are more likely to vote, voted in the last city election, are non smokers and even have put up holiday lights.

Factors that didn’t play a role were ethnicity or political affiliation.

If they didn’t recycle, Lucas asked them why .

“Some were embarrassed,” Lucas said. “Some thought it would be inconvenient, and others just didn’t know what to recycle.”

Addressing the unknown, Lucas posted sign at the entrance and exit of his gated community to remind people when to recycle and what can be recycled.

“People were surprised what they could recycle,” Lucas said. “I was surprised you could recycle deodorant cans.”

Shaw added that people can recycle things such as tooth paste containers even if they have residual contents.

“It will burn off,” Shaw said. “They will take almost anything. Everyone knows paper and aluminum. But you don’t think about stuff like napkins or just about anything with plastic.”

A few weeks later, Lucas surveyed his neighbors again and found that 92 percent of his neighbors were recycling .

“I think it was the knocking on doors that really helped,” Coyle said. “It provided leadership to the community. In some sense, it instilled some human embarrassment.”

The project not only earned him an A in his class but also acknowledgement from Republic Services and the city of Henderson.

“That was a high school-level project,” Coyle said. “He really did an outstanding job.”

Lucas doesn’t want to stop with just his neighborhood. He plans to write to school principals to prompt them to begin recycling programs at school.

“Schools can get paid money for recycling,” Shaw said. “But a lot of them aren’t aware of incentives.”

Lucas’ video and project is available at ourhenderson.com.

Contact Henderson and Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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