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Learning Recycling

Schools offer students programs that show how items are reused

November 8, 2009
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

While Nov. 15 will be America Recycles Day, recycling efforts in local schools have been going on for years.

Dianne Woske, the recycling coordinator at the Fulton County Solid Waste Department, said many schools are collecting recyclable bottles and paper waste.

"Schools produce a huge amount of paper waste," she said.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School seventh grade students, from left, Shania Chapman, Hunter Boonen, Triston Engle and Marie Calhoun, along with their English teacher, Kristen Post, recycle paper in a hallway at the school Thursday.

Green Fiber, an insulation company based in Hagaman, actually operates a recycling program in 20 schools across Fulton and Montgomery counties, George Johnson said.

Johnson, the recycling coordinator for the company, said Green Fiber has been able to expand its program over the last couple of years because of the success it has had. School administrators tend to contact the company after hearing about the program's success in another school, he said.

"This is a program that runs when schools are closed, and even during [the recession]," Johnson said.

The program is simple. Students collect paper from classrooms and offices and deposit it into a bin provided by Green Fiber. The company then empties the bin about once a month. It recycles the paper, grinding it up and using it to create blown-in insulation. The school gets a check from the company for the paper.

Johnson said schools are usually consistent in the amount of paper waste they produce while school is in session. However, when the end-of-year cleanup takes place, he said, the amount of waste the company collects "shoots through the roof."

"Instead of going in the trash like it used to, it now goes to us," he said.

Mayfield Junior/Senior High School Principal Robert Husain said students collect paper once a week for the program.

In addition, they also are trying to recycle more of their recyclable bottles.

"We are more cognizant of what is tossed into the trash," he said.

Dan Russom, superintendent at the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School, said students do not get bored with the program. It is set up so students in grades 6 to 8 actively take part in it. There is less chance of kids getting bored with it.

"It helps the environment, and it makes a little money," he said.

Woske said the program with Green Fiber is a win/win. When the money comes in - at one time, Mayfield used to get about $20 a month for its paper waste - it shows the kids there I some real value to what they might otherwise think is garbage.

However, she noted that schools cannot simply drop what they are currently doing and get involved in the program. Much of what schools do is contractual. If they want to change where part of their waste goes, they may have to wait to negotiate a deal on that.

Compost pile

Woske said a local school may start a compost pile for its own garden soon.

At Park Terrace Elementary School in Gloversville, Principal Stephen Pavone said the projects partly represent the school's effort to become more "green" and "community-minded."

"I'm so excited about this project," he said. "It's only going to get bigger and better."

In April, students at the school broke ground on an organic vegetable garden. The garden is on a 50-by-20-foot plot of land behind the school. Students grew food in the garden, and later ate it during school lunches or donated it to the school food pantry.

Nancy Brown, a social studies and science teacher at the school who was actively involved in the project, said the one place the soil was enriched produced the best, and most, potatoes.

So Woske is working on getting a grant for the school to purchase a food grinder, which will help make compost that can be used in the garden.

Brown said they will find out Nov. 15 if they will get the grant.

The tentative plans call for appropriate waste from the school cafeteria to be used to make compost. They can start using the grinder in the winter, and have the compost pile fully up and running in the spring.

Brown said Woske has already helped secure a worm composter for the school.

"It teaches kid what can be recycled," she said. "That leftover banana or orange peel can be used, while the plastic packaging on some of their food will go right into the trash."

Woske said many colleges do composting because a large amount of a school's waste is food that gets thrown out.

She said, in general, area schools do well with recycling. However, there are still ways some can improve. For instance, she said, at sports games many schools only put out trash containers. If they could put out recyclable containers too, that would only help.

Rob DeLilli, the superintendent of the Gloversville Enlarged School District, said recycling programs tend to be good teaching tools for students because they get involved in them.

"It's something they can touch and work with," he said.



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