With budget cuts increasing every year, local teachers are saving trash to meet their classroom needs. Thomson Elementary, Norris Elementary and Maxwell Elementary schools earn money for used drink pouches, cookie and candy wrappers, chip bags and other trash that they send in to various participating companies.
Thomson Elementary School has the biggest "trash to cash" program, according to Lauren Taylor, public relations person for TerraCycle. TerraCycle accepts empty drink pouches, chip bags, cookie wrappers, candy wrappers, yogurt cups, Lunchables and lotion tubes and pays the school two cents for each unit of packaging.
Ms. Taylor said Thomson Elementary students collected approximately 82,000 wrappers and earned $1,640 during the first semester of last school year. It is not yet known how much was collected/earned during the second semester.
Parent volunteer Judy Giles coordinates the program at Thomson Elementary. She spent four to six hours every Tuesday organizing and packaging the trash at the school. Students earn points for each item they bring in, and those points add up to various prizes. Classes with the most points also earn pizza and ice cream parties.
"We are teaching our children to recycle and they are all so excited," Mrs. Giles said. "And we are making money for our school by simply collecting trash that would have otherwise gone to a landfill. The money we earn is going toward things like much-needed playground equipment."
In addition to the products turned into TerraCycle, Thomson Elementary students also collect Campbell's soup labels, General Mills Box Tops for Education, Coke caps and tabs, old ink cartridges, old cell phones, empty Neosporin tubes, gum packages, and empty Ziploc bags. All items earn money for the school, with the exception of Coke can tabs, which Mrs. Giles sends to the Ronald McDonald House for their benefit.
Maxwell Elementary School also participates in the TerraCycle program. Parent volunteer Judith Hodges was recognized by News Channel 12 for her efforts at the school. According to Ms. Taylor, Maxwell Elementary students collected almost 63,000 wrappers and pouches, earning the school $1,250 after the first semester. Maxwell Elementary Principal Donna Bennett said those numbers should be higher after the second semester, because Mrs. Hodges has hosted several contests with big prizes, such as a week-end at the beach.
At Norris Elementary, QUEST students who make up the "Green Team" collect Capri Sun pouches and Frito Lay chip bags for TerraCycle. QUEST teacher Khrista Kent said the school has no parent volunteer to assist in the efforts, so their collection is much smaller. She said Norris Elementary earned approximately $45 during the first semester.
"It just helps us focus on recycling, and we used the money to buy flowers that the students planted around the school," Mrs. Kent said.
TerraCycle uses the trash to make a range or products like Seed Starter kits, pencil cases, cleaner bottles and tote bags. In a release, Ms. Taylor said the trash "came full circle back to Thomson" this year when these items were sold at Walmart in Thomson for the first time in early April. For information, visit www.terracycle.net.
Thomson and Maxwell elementary schools will continue to accept donations of trash-for-cash items throughout the summer in their offices, according to TES Principal Anita Cummings.
"I'll definitely set something up so we can keep this up," Mrs. Cummings said. "This is helping us so much."