Recycling Lesson Begins for 23 Schools in Pasco County, FL

Looking down at a sea of fourth graders in “Don’t Treat Me Like Trash” t-shirts, Pasco County School Superintendent Kurt Browning kicked off the A Bag’s Life plastic bag collection contest at Gulf Trace Elementary on Aug. 31.

Over the next two months, 23 elementary schools — with 15,000 students — in this Florida county will take the simple task of recycling to the next level by teaching the importance of reducing waste while being rewarded at the same time. Students will bring their plastic bags and wraps to school, where they will be weighed and then taken by volunteers to a neighborhood Walmart to be recycled.

The competition will run until America Recycles Day, celebrated annually on Nov. 15, when two winning schools will be named. The school that collects the most plastic bags and wraps per student and the one that collects the most total bags and wraps each will win a bench donated by The Trex Company and made from 10,000 recycled plastic bags.

Superintendent Browning is a big supporter of the A Bag’s Life competition, signing the pledge to recycle right along with the kids and promising to give every bag a second chance.

“I think it’s important to have a program in our schools where we can begin teaching the younger generation about the importance of recycling,” Browning said. “A program like this allows us to educate our kids, who in turn will go home and educate their parents about the value of recycling and keeping waste out of landfills.”

Pasco County Schools Recycling Coordinator Salinda Strandberg encouraged students to begin rummaging through their homes in search of bags and “film that stretches.” She said students and their parents should be looking for clean and dry newspaper sleeves, bread bags, product wrap, cereal liners, food storage bags, ice bags, produce bags, dry cleaning bags, grocery bags and bubble wrap.

“Our schools recycle thousands of tons of items each year, but the one thing we haven’t been able to recycle is plastic bags,” Strandberg said. “The A Bag’s Life competition gives us the chance to recycle not only the bags, but the wraps, too, and we are definitely going to crush it this year in Pasco County.”

Walmart Store Manager Aaron Powell reminded students that recycling gives them a chance to take personal responsibility for what they use and make a difference with this one simple act.

“We recycle as much as we can at Walmart,” Powell said. “Anything we can do to help the environment and be sustainable is what we are about.”

As a sponsor of the competition, Walmart has donated gift cards that will go to schools that reach collection benchmarks. 

A Box Design Contest also is being held, where schools may assemble a creative team to dress up the collection boxes provided by The Trex Company, which reuses plastic bags in the manufacture of its decking and furniture, keeping thousands of tons of wood and plastic scrap out of landfills each year.

Kristen King, with Keep Pasco Beautiful, told the students that recycling and reusing bags cuts down on litter. She reminded them that after the contest is over, they shouldn’t toss their bags in the curbside bin, but instead bring them back to stores like Walmart, Publix, Lowe’s and Target where they will be recycled.

Educating students at an early age is a great place to start, said Principal Hope Schooler, who said Gulf Trace has had a big focus on sustainability since opening 11 years ago as the county’s first LEED certified Silver school.

"We are so excited to be part of the contest and have taken on the challenge of collecting the most bags to win the bench.”

 

*Special thanks to Andrew Dunn for sharing his photos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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