Elementary School Recycling Station | My Plastic-free Life

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Elementary School Recycling Station
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December 5, 2009
7:10 pm
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I have been thinking about having a recycling station made for my son's elementary school cafeteria. The current set up doesn’t lend itself to optimal student participation. The following link is a picture of a recycling station similar to what I’m envisioning.

http://www.tru.ca/__shared/ass.....on9055.jpg

I have contacted the local Boy Scout troops, and they are interested in constructing a recycling station as a potential Eagle Scout project. This is what I’m thinking as far as the design and materials. We should try and get a few used kitchen cabinet modules from the local Habitat for Humanity and mount them on a wooden base with lockable casters. A laminate countertop (also from Habitat for Humanity) would be mounted on top of the cabinet modules so the countertop is about at about 36” high (that should be a good height of Kindergarteners, right?). The laminate will work well for keeping the top clean (the surface most likely to get dirty). We can then cut appropriate size holes in the countertop. It would be great to get some stainless steel sleeves for the holes. Mount a backboard on it with some signage behind some Plexiglas and voila!

I spoke with Habitat for Humanity, and they told me that it is definitely possible to get the materials through them. The only tricky thing is that their inventory is constantly changing, so we really need to know what we want. They could be on the lookout for stuff if we give them a list of what we’re looking for. I really like the idea of using reclaimed cabinets and countertops because it shows the kids it’s best to try and reuse stuff instead of buying brand new stuff. It would probably be less expensive and, honestly, better constructed than if we purchased a bunch of raw materials.

Funding for materials could be a combination of Green Club and PTA funds as well as fund raising efforts by the Eagle Scout. The design needs to be thought through before developing the cost estimate needed to best determine funding possibilities. But before any of the above progresses too much further, I want to make sure that the princiapl is OK with the whole idea.

Does anyone out there in Fake Plastic Fish land have any advice to offer on making this a reality? In the meantime, check out our Green Club's blog.

http://gogreenwoolridge.blogspot.com/

December 5, 2009
9:13 pm
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Very nice site, Angry Beaver. I particularly liked the video on recycling aluminum cans. You have good ideas on building the recycling stations...nothing much I can add.

My one suggestion pertains to the website. You should ask the webmaster to change the title so that it contrasts with the green leafy background. Right now, the black text is very difficult to read.

December 5, 2009
9:47 pm
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Hi. I think your recycling station plans sound great. I don't know much about building. Maybe someone else can weigh in on that. I'm just really happy that you want to build it out of reclaimed materials.

I agree with Clif that the title of the web site is hard to read against the green background.

But really want I want to say is to comment on the video "Reflections WOW" which is linked in the post about the dumpster diving activity, which I think is a fantastic idea for kids. The video is just so disturbing. First, I just can't believe how schools have switched to Styrofoam containers and trays. When I was in school, we had reusable trays, plates, utensils, bowls, etc. The only disposable items were napkins, milk cartons, and straws (which were actually made from paper.)

I also can't believe how much waste their was from containers that hadn't even been opened! This food could go to charity instead of being thrown away.

Is there some way to avoid so much food waste? I have heard that some schools are required to throw away perfectly good untouched foods and unopened drinks. I have no idea why and if that's true in every state or only in my area.

Kudos to you all for all the efforts you are making. I think educating kids about reducing waste from a very early age is critically important.

December 6, 2009
12:46 am
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August 22, 2011
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I'm the webmaster and am aware of the difficulty reading the title. I plan on doing up a special graphic to serve as the title but never seem to get around to it. The video was done by a local 6th grade middle student. We are trying to make efforts to green our school's cafeteria but it's been hard. It all comes down to money. The school district would have to hire another person if we used reusable trays. That extra person's salary is just not in the budget. I also looked into switching to the plastic milk bottles instead of the paperboard ones because the plastic bottles can be recycled. Our county currently receives bids for both options and the plastic milk bottles typically come in 8 cents more expensive than the paperboard ones (which aren't recyclable here). The county can't absorb that cost and isn't willing to pass the cost on to the customer. I'm working on getting our county to pay for recycling at our schools. Our school's PTA pays over $700 a year so we can have mixed stream recycling. Other schools earn a little money recycling newspapers and aluminum cans. But overall, Virginia really sucks when it comes to recycling. The good thing is that there's a lot of interest in greening our schools but there's a big lack of organization. That's why I started the blog in hopes to share information and to colaborate on larger projects. It's been slow going so far in some respects but, as you can see if you've read the blog, we've accomplished quite a bit in the could years the club has been around. Feel free to continue to check in on the blog as I update the content frequently. Feel free to leave comments on the blog as well.

December 8, 2009
7:40 pm
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August 22, 2011
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Awesome idea!

I was thinking - in terms of heights and finding cabinets that little ones can reach... One of the things you could do if you can't find cabinets low enough, you could chop off the top half of the cabinets, replace the doors with plexiglass (kids love to see inside things), and top with a sturdy plexiglass. No hidden messes that don't get cleaned up, kids can see instantly that they've placed things in the right or wrong place, and you can have it any custom height you want. Plexiglass might be evil, if so, I'm sorry. Sometimes my inner engineer takes over and green gets tricky. Here (Pittsburgh) there's a place called Construction Junction where you can find sheets of plexiglass (used but decent shape) for next to nothing, maybe you could find a builder or site using it, and they'd have left over?

A second thing I thought of... My grandmother liked to volunteer at my cousin's school growing up, I know times have changed and I don't know what your school's neighborhood is like, but instead of hiring someone, maybe more of a volunteer system might be doable? It'd be free, and if 20 people offered one day a month, that would cover it. Maybe not practical, but it was the first thing I thought of.

Good luck!!

December 9, 2009
2:12 am
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I called the local Habitat for Humanity and I can get some middle of the road kitchen cabinets for $1.50 - $2.00 per linear inch of cabinet width. I also am in the process of getting a good deal on a 48" x 60" sheet of Paper Stone. It is a solid surface countertop material that is made from recycled paper.

http://www.paperstoneproducts......_Guide.pdf

I estimate that the recycling station will cost a little over $200 when all is said and done. Not too bad in my opinion.

ejwm - What are you refering to when you mention "hiring someone"?

December 9, 2009
3:46 am
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Just recalled something we had years ago where I worked. I purchased some roll-around recycling bins that were nothing more than very heavy-duty woven-synthetic bags, 3 of them, each a different color, suspended using eyelets in a single metal frame with casters. The tops of the bags were about waist-high.

Each color was dedicated to a particular material to be collected. The nice part about it was the bags could be cleaned easily and were impermeable so no liquids could go through to make a mess on the floor. You would roll the frame to wherever you wanted a recycling collection spot. A "backboard" would be placed on any wall and would protect the wall from spattering.

The bags were plastic but so rugged that you would simply empty them, rinse them and put them back for re-use. No need to have a huge supply of plastic liners that would be replaced each time.

Not only was this a way to do regular collecting, we could also wheel these bags to any location for special events, even outside. I wish I could remember where I bought them. It was an industrial supply house, such as Grainger, McMaster-Carr, Direct Safety, etc.

Of course, such a solution would not get anyone involved in a creative project.

December 9, 2009
11:39 am
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Cliff - Sounds like a good idea on paper but I would be concerned about the cleanability of the bags, especially with the fact that kids might be throwing in half empty juice pouches or accidentally throw out their french fries with ketchup (you get the idea). The school would not take care of washing those bags either. It's not in the janitor's contract. We can't even get the janitor to empty the recycling bins in the classrooms. We rely on student and parent volunteers to do that. One of our goals is to talk to the school district and ask that recycling duties be added to the janitors' duties.

December 9, 2009
9:07 pm
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AB, do I hear you!

That "it's not my job" thing was a factor where I worked. This was back in the early 1990's and there were three of us employees who took the whole paper recycling program under our wing for a company with 200 employees. The night cleanup folks would have nothing to do with it. So we took the ball and ran with it, getting a paper company to send a truck to our loading dock on a regular schedule and setting aside half of an empty floor in our 13 storey building for skids with "gaylords" (huge cardboard boxes that 2 people could easily sit inside) to hold paper.

Of course, it wasn't "our job" either but we did it anyway.

It was a TV broadcast station and a magazine publisher under one roof so generated huge amounts of paper from the newsroom. I would pick up hundreds of heavy glossy magazines from the publisher's office that were never read. We shipped out several tons (a full truckload) to the paper company every month for years. Thank God for that loading dock with hydraulic lifts...each gaylord weighed 2000 pounds when full and we made sure each was uncontaminated with other stuff so the paper company loved us.

I figure I did enough recycling in those days to earn a merit badge, but unfortunately I had dropped out of Cub Scouts long ago. Still it felt good to do the right thing on such a huge scale right in the heart of downtown Chicago.

December 10, 2009
8:45 pm
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I updated the blog header. Let me know what you think.

http://gogreenwoolridge.blogspot.com/

December 11, 2009
1:22 am
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The new header is beautiful. I love it!

December 11, 2009
7:17 pm
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August 22, 2011
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YES! A big improvement. You should be Happy instead of Angry, Beaver! :)

December 11, 2009
8:49 pm
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I chose the username "Angry Beaver" because I'm angry about the way people treat the environment. I'm also an engineer, and beavers are one of nature's best engineers.

December 11, 2009
9:36 pm
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I used to watch this show, I think it was called Two Angry Beavers, and it was hilarious. Your username reminds me of how much that show made me laugh, silly as it was (and they are fantastic engineers, well chosen!).

By "hiring someone", I mean hiring someone to wash trays/dishes... I thought someone mentioned that your school couldn't switch to reusable ones for lunches because they'd have to hire another cafeteria worker. I thought maybe a volunteer tree could be set up instead, but it sounds like you've already got volunteers working overtime as it is.

Our janitorial staff takes our paper for recycle, they're generally pretty cool about it - but I'm sure it's in their contracts. If they're just concerned about extra work without extra compensation, maybe there's a way around it. Technically they'd have to throw it out anyway, so it's not the weight, maybe the extra bin moving or responsibility of keeping things sorted has them worried. I'm hoping there's more to it than just "not my job" because that's depressing.

I've got to figure out counter tops for my kitchen reno, I'm excited about this paperstone product - thanks for the link!

December 12, 2009
9:54 pm
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August 22, 2011
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One of our Earth Week activities will be to get parent volunteers to clean trays for just one day.

Another goal of ours is to get "recycling duty" as part of the official duties for the custodians. Related to this, I'd like to get recycling throughout the entire school district. Currently our PTA pays about $700 a year so our school can do mixed stream recycling. Some other schools are just doing newspaper and aluminum cans as a fundraiser. Most of the other schools don't recycle at all.

The good news is that there's a lot of interest amongst parents and teachers to green our schools. Hopefully I can help show them the way.

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