When Colin Pearson was in first grade at Emmons Lake Elementary, he decided on spring break he wanted to teach his classmates about recycling. When he returned to school, he went about getting approval to set up a program that would recycle plastic baggies students used for their lunches.
“This idea spurred over spring break, and it quickly became his obsession … I mean project,” said Colin’s proud and smiling mom Stephanie Pearson.
Colin’s obsession, oops, his “project,” kept getting bigger and bigger. He created a blog called c-recycle with games and a list of recycling related links. He started a juice pouch recycling program. Then he created his own website.
“I’m encouraging them to recycle,” Colin said of what he’s doing with his fellow students. “We try to save the earth and be green.
“In the future, trash will be all over the place if we don’t recycle now. We’d have a lot of pollution.”
Colin, now a fourth grader, did a bit of math during the initial recycling of baggies, and, based on the average number collected, figured 22,000 baggies were being thrown out by students each week. Want to see what that looks like in a graph? Go to Colin’s website.
Like any start-up, there were a few hurdles to get over. The baggies collected had to be washed out, which was tedious. Then they had to be put on sticks to dry. Stinky and gross baggies all over the place didn’t make Dad very happy. Colin’s parents told him he had to find something else, so he moved on to juice pouches.
Another issue developed when Colin was put in charge of the Emmons Lake collection of electronics and computers for Recycle Kent’s annual Earth Day Challenge. Emmons Lake Elementary contributed the fifth largest amount among schools in the district, bringing in 5,359 pounds of electronics to be recycled. “We brought in a ginormous amount,” Stephanie Pearson said.
That “ginormous amount,” though, took up all the space on Dad’s side of the garage. Oops.
Back to the Bags
After students got used to recycling juice pouches, Colin took on plastic baggies again with a different company, TerraCycle. It didn’t require you to wash out the bags, which made mom and dad happy.
Pearson said the process for the collecting is pretty easy. Large plastic waste containers, one labeled for juice pouches and one for baggies, sit next to the regular trash bins in the cafeteria, and kids learn quickly what trash goes where.
“The kids are really good and most of them do it,” Pearson said.
Classrooms are also provided with a bucket for students to put baggies in after a snack. Special needs student Carter Manning diligently picks up the bags from classrooms every day.
Principal Tony Silveri likes that the project saves a lot of garbage and that “it’s a great way to give back and make a difference.”
TerraCycle is a national company which recycles things you probably didn’t know could be recycled. A few items on its list are cigarette butts, tape dispensers, Elmer’s glue containers and packages from specific companies like Colgate, Paper Mate and Solo.
The product collections are called “brigades,” and the number of schools recycling each product is limited. In November, when the company announced a brigade for Glad food storage bags and containers, the Pearsons quickly signed up and Emmons Lake was selected as one of 40 schools across the nation to participate.
TerraCycle pays two cents per unit for baggies, and the Emmons Lake brigade has earned about $30 every two weeks since it started collecting in the fall, for a total of nearly $500, Pearson said. The money TerraCycle pays the school will help pay for playground equipment.