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By Tyler Flynn
The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is truly being taken to heart by some environmentally conscious students in Bedford County.
Huddleston Elementary School, which has partnered with the New Jersey-based company TerraCycle, has been recognized by the organization for the effectiveness of its recycling initiatives.
TerraCycle, founded in 2001, is an organization dedicated to the idea of eliminating waste; it sponsors several programs, called Brigades, that allow participants to collect and ship them garbage that is not typically recycled. The company converts those materials into new products, such as duffel bags, backpacks and folders. TerraCycle awards points for each waste item collected, and the points can be used for cash for charity.
Lauren Taylor, TerraCyle’s director of U.S. Public Relations, says that Huddleston is one of the top 100 collectors of over 90,000 worldwide Brigade programs, and has saved approximately 65,000 pieces of waste from entering landfills. The students’ efforts have also has raised nearly $1,300 for the school.
Amy Mallow, a fourth and fifth grade history and reading teacher and the school’s TerraCycle coordinator, was first made aware of the program in 2008 through the advice of the parent of one of her pupils, who knew of Mallow’s love for green enterprises. Mallow officially signed the school up for the program in Oct. 2010.
Mallow has structured Huddleston’s program as a school-wide collaborative effort. Each classroom has its own TerraCycle container, which is filled with academic waste, such as writing utensils, glue containers and Ziploc baggies. When each container is filled, it is brought to the cafeteria for the garbage to be sorted into appropriate recycling bins. The students are also able to recycle food items in the cafeteria, such as lunch trays, cheese packages and candy wrappers.
The items are then packaged and sent out, with Terracycle paying for the shipping and handling. According to Mallow, the school collects around 4,000 units of trash per month.
“Our work with TerraCycle has encouraged the entire area to get into garbage. Huddleston Elementary has caused a growth in awareness for families, businesses and the community about the benefits of recycling. We’re a small school making a big difference,” Mallow said.
Separate from the Brigade program is the Dream Machine Recycle Rally, sponsored by PepsiCo.,which allows the students to recycle cans and bottles, where they scan the barcodes on each container and enter the points on a TerraCycle computer. The points earned from the Dream Machine program are used to purchase gift cards to local businesses.
According to Mallow, who also works as the treasurer of the PTA, the funds generated by the program have been a huge help, as Huddleston has been able to host several activities for students, including a Martin Luther King Jr. theater presentation and several family nights. The program also has helped teachers by providing money for end-of-the-year supplies.
Mallow, who has been teaching at Huddleston for six years, has been greatly encouraged by the recognition she and her students have received.
“Our Brigade programs have become more successful than I ever thought they would be. It’s been a huge undertaking, but it has been very much worth it,” Mallow said.
The students of Huddleston have also expressed a positive response to the program.
“TerraCycle raises money for our school, and it also teaches us how to recycle and what things can be made out of the materials,” fifth-grader Will Clary, 11, said.
“I’ve learned that we can recycle almost everything — I enjoy sorting things and putting them in the right bins. It’s also fun getting out of class to help,” fifth-grader Rachel Goode said when asked about her favorite parts of the program.
The efforts of the school have also been praised by the company itself. “Huddleston Elementary has been incredibly engaged and hard-working in their involvement with TerraCycle,” stated Albe Zakes, of TerraCycle. According to Zakes, if all the organizations involved in the Brigade programs could match the level of commitment demonstrated by the top 100 recyclers like Huddleston, it would double or triple the amount of the waste TerraCycle collects worldwide. “The world needs more motivated children like the students of Huddleston Elementary, as it’s going to take the younger generation to pave the way,” Zakes said.
Huddleston first received recognition in March 2011 as a 2nd runner-up of all collectors in the U.S., for which the school received a $50 gift card used to purchase several planners made from recycled materials for the students. In April 2012, the school was recognized as one of the top 100 organizations for its recycled writing utensils. “TerraCycle has made recycling a way of life for the students, as they get to experience the process firsthand. We’re hoping to add more Brigrade programs in the future,” Huddleston Principal Aprille Monroe said.