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Congress Park Ecology Club
Brookfield, IL

Our environmental project in 2010-11 was to start a comprehensive recycling program at our school.  Before this year, we recycled paper and cardboard only.  Now, we have an extensive list of recyclable items that we are collecting at school and at home.

In August, I started an Ecology Club at the school.  There are 34 members from grades 3-6.  The students meet four times a week to sort recycling and get it ready to ship.  They also meet once a month for an Ecology Club meeting in which we talk about being conservationists and finding ways to make our school more eco-friendly. 

The first thing we did was purchase containers in which to start recycling cans and bottles.  The company that picks up our recycling takes these items, but before this year we did not have in-house containers, volunteers, or an organization to handle the increase of recycled materials. 

We also started recycling items are not recycled through our villages’ curbside service, creating our “Beyond the Curb” program. We recycle batteries through a local green store and ink and toner cartridges through Staples. We use Terracycle which accepts a wide variety of materials , such as packaging for granola bars, cookies, Lunchables, and zip-lock baggies.

Using sign up sheets students schedule themselves for the morning sorting station. Labeled cardboard boxes are pulled out of a small hallway closet and lined up against a wall. Students scatter throughout the building and gather the color-coded plastic collection bins from the lunch areas and other strategic spots. Families and community members drop off recyclables in bins just inside the main entrance. In a fast 25 minutes volunteers scramble to gather, sort, and box items. Full boxes are taped and labeled for shipping. Before classes begin, the door closes on the packed closet and the sorting station disappears.

Through our program we have saved hundreds of batteries, over 13,000 drink pouches (like Capri-Sun pouches), over 8,000 Chip bags, and over 15,000 Zip-Lock baggies, along with 19 other items that cannot be recycled at home from ending up in landfills.

Our students recycle at lunch now; about 50% of the waste that used to go into the garbage can now be recycled.  Students are now even recycling the paper bags in which they get their school supplied lunches.  In classrooms we are recycling during snack time and class parties.

Many families and community members also collect items from our list at home and bring in these items for recycling at our school.  We are hoping to spread the word in the community and have more people recycling these items next year!

This program has changed the spirit of our school.  Staff, students, parents, and community members have become more eco-conscious and are participating in our program at school and at home.  Students are excited to see our progress and know that they are making a difference!