By John E. Weare
Keep Alliance Beautiful
Just after Halloween four monsters found their way into the recycling center. Lazy and slow from eating all month, we caught the little fiends with ease and tossed each one into the baler. A few last snarls drowned out by the hum of a hydraulic press.
No, not the ending to a spooky tale. Rather, what I imagined as Carlie Foster, Keep Alliance Beautiful education coordinator, recycled her props from an October contest. Four second grade classrooms at Emerson Elementary participated: Mrs. Adam, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Haskell and Mrs. Weare. Whoever fed their cardboard monster the most earned a pizza party.
Contests are par for the course most years as KAB engages students. Why I found this particular one noteworthy comes from helping unload, sort and bale the sheer volume of material that came through our doors as kids vied for a slice. One business earmarked the cardboard in their bin for one teacher. Family and friends delivered loads for another. “I had at least 4 full vanloads,” Carlie said. “One of these loads included (my husband) John's vending van as well!
‘“When the dust settled Mrs. Haskell’s class edged their peers. I talked to her students as they sat down with Papa’s pizza, pop and cookies. Nine of the children, by a show of hands, had recycled with their families before the contest while almost all of the 23 kids participated in bring food for the monster.
Asked about the best part (other than pizza of course) answers included: bringing everything in; winning; bringing all the trash; like getting to eat all the foods I can get through recycling. The students said the monster’s diet consisted of: a lot of pop cans, plastic water bottles, package pillows, cardboard from mom’s work and milk jugs. Most of the children helped collect the materials and said they will encourage their families to keep recycling.
“Recycle so you don’t litter,” one girl said. Her neighbor added, “The trash would be all around the world and the world would get sick.”
“It broke my heart that not each class was able to participate in the pizza party as every class did so well. Each class was pretty neck and neck the whole time, but Mrs. Haskell's class had a few parents drop off truckloads of cardboard,” Carlie said. “Next year, I plan to put a few more parameters around what they can bring, as each student doesn't have a parent that owns a business to bring in cardboard or milk jugs etc. I want to make sure it's as ‘fair’ as possible so every class is getting a fair shot.”
Students have become used to seeing recycling bins in class. For a bit of fun and contrast, Carlie explained, “I saw the monster idea on my Pinterest and thought it would be a great way to tie in Halloween for the month of October and support recycling. So when I created them, I figured it was a big enough box to hold a few milk jugs, water bottles and aluminum cans each week. The kids really showed up for the competition and brought EVERYTHING that could be recycled. I feel the parents deserve a round of applause too, as I know they helped!”
The contest also served as a practical lesson on waste management.
“I think the students learned that the majority of the ‘trash’ that they throw away can actually be recycled! I'm hoping recycling isn't as intimidating as some thought when the competition started. I made multiple trips in and out of each classroom throughout the month, so I'm hoping I
wasn't too much of a disturbance and this can be an annual competition for the second graders!”