‘Trash Busters’ at Hadley Elementary launch recycling program

  • The student council at Hadley Elementary School marches down the hall dressed in their “Trash Busters” T-shirts, promoting their mission to advocate for recycling in district schools. Gazette Staff/Amanda Levenson

  • The student council at Hadley Elementary School marches down the hall dressed in their "Trash Busters" T-shirts, promoting their mission to advocate for recycling in district schools. Gazette Staff/Amanda Levenson

  • The "Trash Busters" at Hadley Elementary School hold up a now happy Earth, which was previously frowning before the students educated their classmates about the importance of recycling. Gazette Staff/Amanda Levenson

For the Gazette
Published: 12/9/2016 7:17:53 PM

HADLEY — The student council at Hadley Elementary School has appointed itself the “Trash Busters” and set out to make the world a cleaner, greener place.

The 24 students making up the Trash Busters have spent this school year planning a way to effectively educate their classmates and community on the importance of recycling. After all their hard work, the students convinced Superintendent Anne S. McKenzie to support their cause and push for recycling in the district’s schools.

“Student council has never taken on an idea like this. They usually have can drives, raise money for leukemia and do other things they’ve done for years,” said Melissa Aloisi, a parent volunteer. “They came up with the ideas, and I was just guiding them in what was realistic.”

To the students, recycling is something that should be addressed with more urgency.

“We wouldn’t want to live on an Earth that’s just built up on trash. We want to live on a fresh Earth,” said Nick Uchneat, 10, a fourth-grader on the student council.

An idea takes root

The project began last year when the robotics team participated in the FIRST LEGO League, a robotics competition where students are given a theme and are judged on identifying and finding a solution to a real world problem. The theme was Trash Trek, and the Hadley students decided that their school should recycle more than just paper and cardboard.

The students contacted the Center for Ecotechnology in Florence and were provided with five big blue recycling bins, but the competition drew to a close and their idea to expand recycling threatened to slip away without becoming reality.

“Kids on the team said, ‘Now what? Is this the end?’” said Aloisi.

It wasn’t. The solution only gained momentum from there.

In May, the student council voted to take on the project. They decided to implement a three-part plan: get the storage bins, educate the school on recycling and do sorting as a competition.

For weeks the students worked with Aloisi and Janet Barett, the faculty leader for student council, to create a presentation, video, and skit explaining the competition. They dedicated their free time to the cause, meeting on days off and during several recesses.

“Recess you can have any other day. It’s just more worth doing recycling than having recess for 45 minutes,” said Cassidy Mushenski, 10, a fifth-grader at the school.

Trash Busters in action

On Nov. 17, the Trash Busters held a schoolwide assembly announcing the trash competition that would be held during lunches.

Wearing their “Trash Busters” T-shirts, the group explained how the two lunch sessions would be challenged to divvy their trash into landfill trash, liquids, paper, plastic and “special,” which were sealed reusable containers.

“The courage for these kids to stand up and talk to 365 other kids is amazing. They behaved, they were professional…. It was really well received,” said Aloisi.

Throughout the competition, the student council members stood at trash bins to help their peers sort lunch waste correctly, weighed the “landfill trash” bin after each lunch session and recorded daily weights for all to see their progress.

The student council also put pictures of recyclables on the posters labeling each bin, so that kindergarteners who couldn’t read would still understand what to do.

Prior to the competition, the first lunch session’s daily trash weighed an average of 68.5 pounds. Afterwards, the scale found their waste to be only 13.7 pounds, a reduction of 80 percent.

Session 2, the larger lunch session, went from an average of 105.9 pounds of trash to 19.9 pounds, an 81 percent drop.

The unfortunate part of the competition was that even though the trash was separated, everything still went in the dumpster, said Aloisi. It was only a display on what the school could do, so students still faced the reality that all items wound up at the landfill.

Making a difference

Their efforts are making an impact, though, because Aloisi said the superintendent has promised to work with the Center for Ecotechnology to pursue recycling in Hadley schools.

“They know this earth deserves a future. They’re recycling at home, and they’re not dumb — they’re like, why am I not recycling at school?” said Aloisi.

The students discovered several other ways that they can make a difference, including utilizing reusable containers and drinking bottles, replacing Styrofoam bowls with an earth-friendly material, switching from individual condiment packets to pumps, putting food in the designated sections on lunch trays rather that plastic containers on top.

“We need to save the Earth as a higher priority than cost,” said fifth-grader Alma Gorman.

In addition to all they learned about green alternatives, the Trash Busters are walking away with the knowledge that they have the power to make a difference.

“They brought this to the student council of 24 kids, and now 24 kids have inspired 365 kids,” said Aloisi. “This is your voice. You’re making a positive change.”




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