Students at Littlebrook Elementary School are putting the lessons they’ve learned about the importance of recycling into action by collecting plastics that otherwise could have gone to landfills.
“All year, we’ve had the pleasure of watching children arrive with large bags of plastic in their arms and huge grins on their faces,” Littlebrook Principal Annie Kosek said. “They’ve loved doing their part to help out the environment, ensuring that these plastics avoid the landfill and instead get recycled.”
Students collected bags like shopping, grocery, bread, cereal, dry-cleaning, and ziploc bags, as well as plastic wrap, newspaper sleeves and bubble wrap.
Science teacher Martha Friend and parent volunteer Jenny Ludmer also reached out to area businesses and found several willing to partner with the school. The ACME of Lawrenceville collected shopping bags from clients, George’s Roasters & Ribs and Slice Between collected the wrap from their incoming packages, and Princeton Radiology saved the plastic bags from their mammogram gown packages for the school.
The school’s efforts collecting, weighing and transporting plastic for the last year resulted in 720 pounds of plastic collected, the top amount in the statewide TREX Recycling Challenge.
Littlebrook’s prize for winning the recycling competition is a new TREX bench made from recycled lumber and plastics. The school will also receive a TREX planter box for participating in the competition.
Friend, who led the effort at the school, said teachers helped the students balance the idea of a competition with the goal of environmentalism. Early on, teachers were surprised to hear students wondering if their parents should start buying more plastics so they could collect more.
“We just continuously reminded the kids that our true goal was to help the earth,” Friend said. “Winning the competition was exciting, but it couldn’t be the main goal.”
Now that the students have an expanded awareness about plastic consumption, the next step is to promote reduction.
“With recent reports that bits of plastic are filling our oceans and even creeping into our sea salts and other foods we consume, the time to act is now,” Friend said.
The school will continue to collect bags, and supporters hope the effort spreads.
“We will keep a bin at Littlebrook, but anyone in the area can drop all of these plastics off at Target or McCaffrey’s too,” Ludmer said. “Next year hopefully other schools and organizations will sign up to participate in the challenge. If one little elementary school managed to collect the equivalent of about 58,000 plastic bags and save them from the landfill, imagine what the whole community could be doing.”