STAMFORD, Conn., Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization, today announced the winners of “Recycle-Bowl,” the first nationwide recycling competition for elementary, middle and high school students. Schools in 47 states competed, reaching more than 500,000 students across America.
First place went to Marshall Christian Academy in Albertville, Ala., where students recycled 41 pounds of waste per child and reduced their garbage pickups (i.e. landfill waste) by half. If all students in America recycled at the rate of this year’s Recycle-Bowl competitors, approximately 1.8 million tons of material would be diverted annually from landfills – that would be the weight of 156,000 school buses.
“Keep America Beautiful is thrilled with the success of Recycle-Bowl’s inaugural year and our congratulations go out not just to our national champion, but to all participating schools for their work in showing how small changes can make a huge impact,” said Matt McKenna, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. “Participants reported the competition gave them a mechanism to start or improve their school’s recycling operations. Importantly, they tell us it also provided them with invaluable teaching moments about sustainability, math, science and social studies.”
From Oct. 17 through Nov. 12, 2011, participating schools recycled as much as possible. The total amount of recyclables recovered during the 2011 competition added up to 2,088,000 pounds, which in turn prevented the release of nearly 990 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). In real-world terms, this reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 154 passenger cars or 191,998 gallons of gas.
Enthusiasm for the program shone through across the country. Students formed school “green teams,” science and art projects were made from recycled materials (including a rollercoaster complete with riders made from bottle caps!), fifth graders hosted family meetings to enforce recycling in their homes and kindergarteners labeled themselves “Recycling Heroes,” standing guard in front of cafeteria trash bins to stop other youngsters from improperly discarding recyclable materials.
The competition offered a $1,000 prize to the school in each state that collected the most recyclable material per capita. A national champion was then chosen from among the statewide winners to receive an additional grand prize of $2,500, earning a total of $3,500 in prize money for the Albertville, Ala., school.
“We weren’t well aware of the impact that it would have to start up a recycling program here, but the results have been remarkable,” said Pam Miller, marketing and recruiting director and recycling coordinator for Marshall Christian Academy. “The level of knowledge is what changed. Once we were educated, the entire school community took action.”
Teachers involved in the program echoed Miller’s sentiments. “It was not just about winning this competition,” said Kristy Carter, a teacher at the Texas state champion school, Sam Rutherford Elementary, in Mesquite. “It was more about educating our teachers and students, who can turn around and educate their communities and their families so that we can make a difference in our city and our state.”
Faculty generally agreed that in addition to education, recycling resources are critical to the success of an in-school recycling program. Access to collection bins and having a reliable hauling partner make all the difference. Once these pieces are in place, they said, the students will take charge because they know what an impact their efforts make on the environment.
Recycle-Bowl by the Numbers:
- 1,226 schools registered – 1% of all U.S. public and private schools.
- Approximately 544,900 students participated in the competition.
- On average, 5.32 pounds of material was collected per person during the four weeks of the competition.
- 67% of schools saw “significant” or “some” increase in the amount of material recycled.
- 2% of schools started a recycling program because of Recycle-Bowl.
Nestle Waters North America sponsored this year’s Recycle-Bowl program. “We’re eager to see more recycling in our schools and to help students learn how important recycling is,” said Christine Korduba, Communications for Nestle Waters North America. “We’re excited to partner with Keep America Beautiful and every participating school on this important recycling initiative.”
A separate national category featured schools that allow drop-off material from the surrounding community, offering a first-place $1,000 prize, a second-place $750 prize and a third-place $500 prize. First place in the national drop-off category went to St. Agnes Academy in Alliance, Neb. Its per capita rate was 392 pounds.