By MICHELE VOWELL
Courier Assistant Editor
Wassom Middle School eighth grader Drabin Morgan wants to save the planet by recycling one piece of trash at a time.
“If we don’t recycle, one day our planet is going to be gone and it’s going to be our fault,” said the 14-year-old student. “So, I think helping the earth also helps everybody on the earth.”
Morgan and her peers help to preserve the earth through the Fort Campbell, Ky., school’s new recycling program.
Launched in Septem-ber, Wassom has partnered with TerraCycle, an international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products, according to terracycle.com.
“Our program helps earn money for our school and different charities while keeping unnecessary amounts of trash out of our landfills,” wrote recycling coordinator Julie Deckard in a letter to Wassom parents.
The partnership enables students to recycle and keep waste out of landfills, while helping Wassom earn easy money for the school.
Participating in a TerraCycle brigade is totally free. There are no signup or participation fees, and the shipping is covered by the program.
“It’s easy because this fundraiser isn’t requiring you to go out and buy a product, it’s stuff we all use in our house every day,” Deckard said. “We just need to make sure they’re going to recycling and not to the trash can.”
TerraCycle works with more than 100 major brands in the U.S. and 22 countries overseas to collect used packaging and products that would otherwise be destined for landfills.
“Toothbrushes—they cut the bristles off and make them into ink pens,” Deckard said. “They take your mascara, your deodorant and turn those into paving stones. They take cell phones and make them into park benches. They even take your shoes and export them to countries where kids don’t have shoes. Candy wrappers are book covers.”
TerraCycle has designated more than 40 waste collection groups or “brigades” in which to collect recyclables. Wassom’s brigades include the Chip Bag Brigade, Lunch Kit Brigade, Personal Care and Beauty Brigade and the Candy Wrapper Brigade, among others.
Like its name, recyclable items to collect for the Chip Bag Brigade include empty bags for potato chips, pretzels, pita chips, bagel chips, soy crisps and other salty snacks.
For each unit of waste collected, Wassom earns TerraCycle points redeemable for upcycled products, charitable gifts or payment to the school.
Shipments of 14 pounds of the salty snack bags receive one TerraCycle point. For every 10,000 points Wassom redeems, that’s $100. “Your points turn into cash,” Deckard said.
This fall Wassom has collected more than $66 in recyclables. Deckard’s goal is $500 by June.
To collect the recyclables, Deckard plans recycling contests for the students. Science classes are given a list of items to collect.
Only those recyclables count for the contest period. The top classes who collect the most recyclables receive rewards, such as an ice cream party, which Deckard funds herself.
As recyclables are collected, Deckard works with students in the school’s Ecology Club to sort through the items once a month.
“What we try to emphasize is one person can make a difference and one piece of trash can make a difference,” said Joanne Ellis, club sponsor. “It doesn’t have to be huge recycling efforts if everyone does their part.”
Morgan brought in a variety of items from home to be recycled.
“I brought in beauty care products, like shampoo bottles and soap bottles,” she said. “Old, emptied out toothpaste containers and toothbrushes. It was kind of disgusting at first, but everything counts.”
Seventh grader Esteban Toledo agrees that recycling is important to the environment and continues to do his part.
“During fall break I decided all the bottles and cans and plastic containers, I was going to recycle them. (I had) 46 recyclables,” he said.
Students, Family members and friends may bring recyclables to the front office of the school in a box or bag. Deckard noted that the school takes items that Fort Campbell recycling does not accept.
“I want people to utilize their bins at home,” she said. “If it doesn’t go in our program, we don’t need it.”
To increase volume of recyclables, Deckard wants Wassom’s efforts to spread throughout Fort Campbell.
“I would love to partner with some elementary schools, so we can maximize the amount we are sending in,” she said.
Deckard said partnering schools would be credited for their donations and monies received from TerraCycle would be divided accordingly.
School officials may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“It’s a win-win situation,” she said.
The benefits of recycling are clear to sixth grader Ashley Deckard, who helps her mother with Wassom’s program.
“It helps keep trash out of the landfills and keeps the animals stay safe and clean,” she said. “It keeps the earth clean and healthy.”