Recycling effort a real winner

By Doug Snover

Every school day right after lunch at Kyrene de Las Brisas Elementary School, crews of third-graders wheel heavy blue barrels from classroom to classroom, collecting recyclable paper.

Three or four times a week, 85-year-old Bill Muscenti drives a load of recyclable paper in the trunk of his car from his home in Sun Lakes to the school parking lot at 777 N. Desert Breeze Blvd. in west Chandler.

On Tuesday mornings, before school starts, Brisas students come to school early with “their arms stretched out as far as possible” carrying recyclable paper to exchange for treats, according to third grade teacher Mary Jo Boergers.

And every February, it seems, Brisas wins a local recycling competition and collects up to $1,000 for school supplies and even picnic tables for the playground area.

This year’s recycling contest has been stretched to two months, and Boergers hopes for a big finish by March 31.  The goal, she says, is to double last year’s winning haul of 12.6 tons of recyclable paper.

“We’ve started seeing it growing and getting bigger and bigger,” she said. “We seem to be doing O.K.. We probably have about 16 tons so far (and) we have two-and-a-half weeks to go.  We could do it.”

The recycling contest is sponsored by Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.’s Recycling Division, the largest recycler of newspapers in North America. Abitibi Paper Retriever is a community-based program, with more than 11,200 collection points, including schools, churches and non-profit organizations.

Abitibi-Consolidated’s Recycling Division pays these organizations for their paper recycling efforts.  Schools have used the additional funds for scholarships, teaching aides, library books, and field trips.

Newspaper, magazines, shopping catalogs, office and school papers as well as mail can all be recycled at the green-and-yellow Abitibi Paper Retriever bins.

In 2002, Brisas Elementary students collected almost 4 tons of recyclable paper to win the competition and earn $1,000 for their school.  In 2003, the school more than doubled its efforts and finished in second place with 9.5 tons.  Last year, the school upped the ante to 12.6 tons and reclaimed first place among more than 300 competing school and more than 300 churches and service organizations.

Boergers and third-grade teacher Edward Collins are leading this year’s drive.

“Our goal then (in 2002) was to get recycling going within the classroom,” Boergers explained.  The program expanded in the second year to ask students to bring paper from home to recycle, she said.  Last year, it expanded again to seek help from family members and other residents of the Kyrene Corridor community.  This year, Brisas has tapped local businesses to help the paper drive.

“We’ve been stuffing that bin,” Boergers said.

Muscenti said he loads the trunk of his car several times a week and makes the trip to Brisas.  “I’ve got my entire neighborhood in Sun Lakes dropping paper at my door,” he said as he dropped another bundle into the green-and-yellow bin in the Brisas parking lot.

Boergers and Collins train their third-graders to go throughout the school each day collecting paper for the recycling drive.  “They have to pass a test” before joining the recycling crew, she said, explaining that students are taught the benefits or recycling and what materials are recyclable.  Some third-grade students even make presentations in other classrooms about the benefits of recycling, she said.

Boergers said the bin is emptied several times a week if necessary.  She said the contest accepts office paper,  newspapers and magazines, catalogs, and even junk mail, but cannot accept corrugated cardboard.