MARQUETTE - The fourth- and fifth-graders in JoeyLynn Selling's class at North Star Elementary are turning snack time into a schoolwide recycling project.
The kids have spent much of the school year collecting hundreds of chip bags, candy wrappers and juice pouches that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill and sending them off to be recycled into everything from backpacks to lunch boxes to notebook covers.
The "trash" is boxed up and shipped to a project called TerraCycle, which uses the packaging to make tote bags, pencil cases and other items.
Class member Elena McCombie cuts the top off a juice pouch so it can be washed and shipped. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"They have purses and handbags and backpacks," student Alli Goriesky said. "It's a lot of fun."
The program accepts packaging from Frito Lay, Mars Snackfood and Kashi products. The products are then sold at retailers around the country, including the classroom store at North Star and at www.terracycle.net.
"This is basically a big class project," Selling said. "Somebody's assigned to recyclables. We call it 'lunch patrol.'"
Kids in the class split up responsibilities including collecting the wrappers and packaging from the entire school during lunch, washing out the juice packages and sorting them.
Even when out on field trips the kids have been known to pick up litter to put toward their project.
"Everybody knows now," said student Elena McCombie, explaining that other classes in the school have begun forwarding their trash to the collection.
"We'll put the box at basketball games," Goriesky said.
In addition to being able to have the recycled products in their store, the class also gets two cents per item collected.
The project allows the class to send in about a pound of wrappers and juice pouches at a time, and encourages participants to also use recycled shipping materials.
"It's trash and it gives them a responsibility in the classroom," Selling said.
Kids in the class said collecting their own candy and juice wrappers has made them more aware of how much gets thrown away at their school.
"Before we started this, I would throw out a lot of things," Goriesky said.
"It helps the earth and it teaches us a lesson," said classmate Grace Franklin.
The class sends in a box of materials to be recycled every week and a half, Selling said.
"I'm really proud of the kids. They really take ownership of it. The most I do is package it up," she said. "I think they've become a little more conscious of what's in the garbage. Not everything needs to be thrown away."
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.