Fonda-Fultonville student government President Evan Wadsworth broke a dozen students into teams at the high school office on Friday and assigned each group a specific part of the school district campus.
Within minutes, students were on their way to visit each classroom for only a brief moment.
The effort? Collecting paper and cardboard for recycling takes about 40 minutes, Wadsworth said, and it will earn the student government money.
The collection team, which has been gathering recyclables for three weeks, typically consists of six people, Wadsworth said.
But Friday’s effort required more help because cardboard boxes large enough to collect paper had to be delivered to the middle and elementary school classrooms, thus spreading the initiative throughout the district.
Wadsworth said his generation will be dealing with the tons of material dumped into landfills by today’s generation, so to him, the effort makes good sense.
The fact that the school used to pay to dispose of even recyclable paper waste but now will obtain money for it makes it even more sensible, Wadsworth said. The work will also minimize the school’s impact on the planet, he said.
“It helps the environment immensely,” Wadsworth said.
Students and faculty are supporting the project — few collection boxes came up empty — and class activity seemed unaffected when a student opened the door, grabbed the box, and dumped it into a wheeled cart.
“The teachers have been very cooperative,” student government adviser Linda Petterson said.
As they wheeled their collection cart through the hallways, the pace slowed.
“It’s getting heavy,” said junior Sean Franklin, who was collecting materials in the high school with senior Kimberly Houle.
Wadsworth said the biggest contributor so far has been the “duplicating center,” where photocopies are made. They make a special trip to collect that paper.
Otherwise, he said it’s a toss-up in terms of quantity between the mathematics and English classrooms.
Outside the school building sits a bright green waste receptacle with a sign that identifies acceptable materials: newspapers, phone books, office paper, cardboard, cereal boxes, magazines, brown paper bags and construction paper.
“It’s definitely what we’re looking for,” said George Johnson, recycling coordinator at the U.S. GreenFiber plant in Hagaman, which is focusing on schools as a source for their raw materials.
U.S. GreenFiber makes a cellulose-based insulation out of recycled paper, and the company is paying schools and other institutions for the product.
Johnson said the schools are being put on regular routes for trucks to arrive and empty receptacles.
Each large bin is estimated to contain about a ton of paper, Johnson said, and the school will receive $25 for each one collected.
“We tell the schools to make us show up as many times as possible, that’s what we want,” Johnson said.
So far, the company has agreements with schools in Galway, Ballston Spa, Lake Luzerne and Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Johnson said.
“I think in [Montgomery County], Fonda-Fultonville is the first one,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he’s been making rounds to different school districts, outlining the program for school officials.
“The ones that are finding out about it are coming on board, and the interest is growing,” Johnson said.
Efforts at Fonda-Fultonville could expand in the future, Principal David Halloran said.
“I’d like to see this really take root and expand it,” Halloran said.
It’s unclear yet how much the students will earn from recycling this year, but regardless of the number, the money is expected to be well-used.
The bulk of money collected by the Fonda-Fultonville student government is given away to charities, including the Montgomery County animal shelters and the Schenectady Inner City Mission.
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