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Recycle, Reward, Recreation

Students at Kettle Lake Elementary soon will have a perfect example of what recycled materials can become: a new playground structure to be added to their schoolyard.

A sample TerraCycle playground structure (courtesy)

Kettle Lake was the grand-prize winner of a new structure made from recycled oral care-product waste through the 2017 Recycled Playground Challenge, sponsored by TerraCycle, Colgate and Meijer.

As part of the challenge, students recycled the most oral care products among schools in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky. They earned 81,697 playground credits, with each credit representing one unit: a toothbrush, floss container or toothpaste tubes for recycling. The TerraCycle play structure will be installed in November.

Trash Transformed to Art

In fitting with their schoolwide recycling efforts, Kettle Lake Elementary students worked together on a collaborative mural made from cast off items like wrappers, straws, bottle caps, and other bits and pieces of trash applied to foam from packaging from new playground equipment.

Art with a Repurpose” was on display through Oct 8 at Douglas J. Aveda Institute, 138 Commerce Ave. SW, for ArtPrize 2017. It was vying for the new ArtPrize Youth Collaboration award sponsored by Western Michigan University. Student entries were installed across the three-square-mile ArtPrize district.

Art teacher Deb Trent said the end result is a 58-by-58 inch Jackson Pollock-esque piece that embraces the school’s commitment to recycling.

“Art with a Repurpose” by Kettle Lake Elementary students

Students said it’s exciting to see their recycling efforts pay off.

“If you recycle stuff, it doesn’t take up more space around the world,” said fifth-grader Addison Saidoo.

“Every time you throw something away it makes a huge mess and animals suffer and it’s not kind to them,” added second-grader Corbin Ryder.

Go Green!

When it comes to being green, Kettle Lake Elementary has been recognized as among the area’s most environmentally savvy in several ways:

  • The school has for several years been certified through the Michigan Green Schools Program, for which students work to achieve environmental goals by recycling, reducing energy use and protecting the environment.
  • Kettle Lake recycles paper and cardboard in bins also used by the community.
  • The lunch program uses reusable plastic trays that are washed daily instead of styrofoam, and students are also encouraged not to take more food than they want to eat. Applesauce containers, granola wrappers, cereal bags and other items are continuously recycled through a school-wide recycling program.
  • The school reduces energy use through efficient lighting and climate control and have perennial and vegetable gardens and birdhouses.

Kettle Lake has also won the Kent County Recycling Challenge for using reusable water bottles instead of plastic and collecting 80,000 water bottles for recycling.

Fifth-grader Juliana Ryder, fifth-grader Addison Saidoo and third-grader Alexis Saidoo recycle oral care products

“The kids walk in here in kindergarten and they see right away that we are recycling,” said Principal Sean McLaughlin. “They see and learn about it, the same with our parents. It has just become an important thing for our Kettle Lake community.”

The playground contest effort was led by Jamie Ryder, chair for TerraCycle, which is a subcommittee of the Parent Teacher Organization, and Crystal Saidoo, chair of the playground committee, which is working to raise funds to replace a playground removed two years ago.


TerraCycle Contest Information

Kettle Lake students continuously recycle items

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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