Students at Colfax Upper Elementary School in Springdale Borough are digging through trash each day, making sure that recyclables are going to the right places.
"Sometimes they will look in the bins and make sure we are recycling everything," said McCall Malecki, fifth-grade teacher at Colfax, which is part of the Allegheny Valley School District.
The students have been collecting paper for years, but right now they are recycling the paper as part of Waste Management's GreenSylvania, a contest to increase awareness and paper recycling efforts of schools in Pennsylvania.
The paper recycling contest, part of Recycle-Bowl, is sponsored by Keep America Beautiful and Waste Management of Pennsylvania.
"Scott Andrews, a sixth-grade science teacher, put in the infrastructure for the recycling program, then I took it over last year," Ms. Malecki said.
Last year, the student council at the school took over the efforts at Colfax. Ms. Malecki, the teacher sponsor for the student council, oversees the efforts. This year, her homeroom is leading the charge.
The district has installed recycling bins in classrooms, and fifth-grade students collect the bins once a week and bring them to "the hub," where the paper is weighed before recycling.
A math teacher, Ms. Malecki has worked the recycling measures into her curriculum.
"Every week, we estimate what we think the weight will be," she said. The school usually has 100 pounds of paper a week.
"We had 132 pounds a few weeks ago, which was pretty high, then last week was 106 pounds," she said.
For four weeks, the students also will record the information for the contest.
Two of Ms. Malecki's students lead the paper recycling program at Colfax.
Ben Myford, 11, from Springdale, said the project is fun.
"I did it last year and wanted to help again this year. It does a lot of good," he said.
His classmate, Zack Rudolph, 11, agreed.
"It helps me learn about recycling and also helps me learn how to help our world," he said.
Both boys help collect and weigh the trash every week.
The school also recycles the waste from their cafeteria and turns it into compost, collects beverage can tabs for the Ronald McDonald organization, and collects Capri Sun pouches for another project.
Jennifer Devecchio, principal, said the recycling efforts have helped the entire community.
"Our community doesn't have recycling, so this is a grass-roots program that has been an amazing effort from our students.
It helps them rethink what they do with trash -- they think about what they can do for themselves and what they can do for their community," she said.
Ms. Devecchio hopes that by increasing awareness and the programming at school it will spread to the children's homes and the whole community as well.
Ms. Malecki said the students have taken their recycling efforts very seriously.
"If someone doesn't recycle something, they will say, 'Hey, you could have recycled that,' and take it out of the trash," she said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.