In the last couple of years, recycling has really become a priority for me. We recycled at my house growing up, but then I got out of the habit when we weren't allowed to recycle in the dorms at college. My roommate and I had asked to recycle water bottles and our RA said they were afraid of attracting "critters" so we couldn't. Anyway, we've been recycling everything we can at home and I've been trying to get more recycling going at school.
There are a couple of ways we've been working on recycling more at school, besides recycling materials for Art class (like our bottle cap artwork).
- Terracycle is one way we've been recycling. This company is super cool. Their goal is to eliminate the idea of waste. They have several "brigades" you can sign up for that allow you to ship hard to recycle materials to their location. It doesn't cost anything to participate. You collect the items and when you have enough to fill a box, you print off a label that lets them cover shipping the box to NJ. Recycling with Terracycle can even earn money for your school. Most brigades will earn 2 cents per elligible item. It's not a lot, but it's getting paid for trash! The first brigade I signed up for was Elmer's Glue Crew. We collect empty glue sticks and glue bottles that would otherwise be thrown away. I keep the drop box right by the Art room door. If we have empty glue containers in Art class, they go in the box. I also made sure that classroom teachers know about it and they'll drop off empties with their students. We are also signed up to collect diaper and wipes packaging, personal care/beauty items (everything from empty mascara tubes to hair gel bottles), oral/personal care items like deodorant tubes and old toothbrushes, and printer cartridges. Right now I have drop boxes by my door but it's not the best system. I'm hoping to get some bigger recycling bins next year that can be put in a more central location at school so that more students can participate.
- Recycling bins in the teacher's lounge- We already had collection bins for paper and pop cans, but I was seeing a lot of other recyclables being thrown away. One of the 6th grade teachers brought in a stacking set of recycling bins that they didn't need at home anymore. As a staff, we've gotten a lot better at recycling since it's so accessible. We now have an easy way to recycle plastics 1-7 (they don't have to be sorted, how cool is that?), cardboard, tin cans, glass bottles, etc. For now only the plastics and paper can go in the recycling dumpster that gets picked up at school, but I just take the other items to one of the multi-stream collection dumpsters when they get full.
- Student Recycling Club- We just started the recycling club (PS Green Team) after spring break. I had over 40 students in 4th-6th grade show up! Our first order of business was to brainstorm ideas for the rest of the school year. It could really only be about 6 weeks because I ended up having check ups scheduled during the before school time slot. In that time, we made posters with lots of recycling facts, planned activities for "Earth Week" (why just celebrate Earth Day?), and had a Terracycle collection contest. Not all the events we planned for the whole school went over well, probably because I am only there 2 days a week to remind people. But, I figured it was a promising start and the students are excited to start up again next year.
During Earth Week, I had students in my room at recess to make some recycled presents for the birds in the courtyard. The first thing we did was make bird feeders out of toilet paper tubes. We spread peanut butter on the tubes, rolled them in bird seed, and slid them over branches on the trees outside. It was super simple and the birds loved it. It was really cool to see the birds right up next to the windows eating the seed and something we'll do again.
I also cut big openings in some plastic milk jugs to use as larger bird feeders. We hung a couple outside. We couldn't just throw away the piece of milk jug that wasn't needed for the bird feeder, so we tried using it to distribute nesting materials. We used a simple hole punch to put holes around the edge, put a loop at the top for hanging, and stuck too-short-to-use leftover pieces of yarn from weaving projects through the holes. I think this design could work... we should have just put smaller holes or more yarn through each hole because the wind blew them away!