West Elementary is recycling its heart out. The school was recently named one of the top five recylers in the state by TerraCycle Inc. for sending in almost 100,000 items during the 2012-13 school year.
“We have the most awesome students ever,” said West principal Michelle Lewis. “I’ll see students telling other students ‘No, don’t throw that away. We can recycle it.’ This being my first year, I was so impressed. I was unaware of how hard this school works to recycle and upcycle.”
TerraCycle was founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky, then a 20-year-old Princeton University freshman. He began producing organic fertilizer by packaging liquified “worm poop” in used soda bottles. Since the inauspicious start, the company has become one of the fastest-growing green companies in the world.
Today, TerraCycle is a highly awarded, international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products, including drink pouches, chip bags, toothbrushes and other items.
To win the distinction, the school sent in:
• Juice pouches – 57,922
• Snack bags – 26,563
• Candy wrappers – 7,888
• Elmer’s glue bottles – 6,766
The company pays West Elementary 2 cents per item, giving the school $1,982.78 for the 99,139 items donated last year.
West’s efforts began with collecting two items approximately four years ago and is currently being spearheaded by teachers Jill Pierce and Tracy Herrin.
“Our effort began with drink pouches and potato chip bags,” said Pierce. “For each pouch and bag, we received 2 cents from TerraCycle. We decided to include candy wrappers and glue bottles.”
Although not part of the TerraCycle upcycle efforts, West also collects and recycles Solo cups, cans, paper, plastic bottles, Campbell’s soup labels and Box Tops for Education.
Eco Warriors, consisting of students, are selected to lead the charge in the school’s recycling and upcycling efforts.
“The entire program is carried out by the Eco Warriors,” said Pierce. “All Eco Warriors are chosen for a specific task involved in upcycling for demonstrating responsible behavior, good character and the ability to work independently and as part of a group. However, nothing would be possible without the support of all staff, teachers and students.”
Teachers have items they are in charge of collecting: Pierce, juice pouches; Herrin, chip bags; Katie Bryant, cookie and candy wrappers; Holly Sizemore, glue sticks and glue bottles; Kathie Hodge and Don Heath, aluminum cans; Hodge also collects Campbell’s soup labels; Tracy Bain, paper; Vanessa Cannon and Jennifer Carter, paper and plastic; Erika Burdine, Box Tops; Stephanie Majors, Solo cups; and Melanie Sullins, printer cartridges.
“We have a pretty good recycling team,” said Lewis. “I’m proud of each and every one of them. The candy wrappers and glue containers are recent additions to the TerraCycle upcycling effort. I think our numbers in those brigades will climb. I’m excited to see what’s collected this year.”