Thursday, October 4, 2012

Juice Containers

Juice Container Recycling

The first response I received sums up the challenges of juice container recycling. I’m sure you can relate to this:

YES! The containers get dirty and need to be washed. Not all juice can be squeezed out by little 5 year old hands. The straw goes where? the box goes where? All of this with no adequate adult supervision since teachers are not there during lunch hour. We do have monitors but they are only 9 years old and can't be expected to remember everything either. Our monitors need explicit training themselves. Any suggestions?

Some of our schools have a completely different approach – Just Say No. No recycling. Take it home.

The more I think about the obstacles of container recycling, the more I think the “NO” approach is like a breath of fresh air, although it’s contentious.

The freedom that I imagine accompanies the Take It Home philosophy is tantalizing. No more sticky, smelly containers to collect, sort and count (but are they piling up in your coatroom, desks, or corner of your classroom?).

If your students are required to return their waste to their homes, is it more or less likely to be properly recycled?

If mom and dad find a week’s worth of spent juice boxes at the bottom of the backpack on Sunday, will they be more willing to buy a reusable bottle instead?

Do you lose your only opportunity to teach your students to reuse, reduce and recycle?

What about the money? Some schools really count on those nickels for funding. But what about your time? How much extra time did you donate in order to accrue those nickels?

What do you think? Is it worth it to use class time to recycle juice containers?

A wonderful example of how to successfully integrate recycling into your teaching came from a local elementary school. You'll probably know who this is from, but if you don't and you want more information, let me know and I'll connect you.

One idea might be to take the scale down from "whole school" to just "classroom by classroom".  It's more manageable and it still lets the teacher promote (and ensure?) recycling happens.

My Grade 2 class recycles juice boxes and yoghurt cups.  We throw out the straws and cut the corner off the box so that we can rinse it out.  Each child is expected to do this before putting the container in the "draining basket".  The "classroom custodian of the week" empties the basket each day into a recycling bag/box.  At the end of the week, the bag goes home with this student along with a green sheet that explains the recycling to the parent (we use the money to buy suet for our Canada BirdFeeder Watch program) and asks the student to "draw a picture of the money" that they collect.  We write "debit, credit, balance" money math in our math journals as "incidental learning".  We also "invite parents" to add their own recycling to the week's proceeds if they wish, and I bring in my orange juice and pop bottles just to "fatten the pot" a bit.

When there is money left over at the end of the year, I either give everyone a loonie or if it's way more, we vote on how to spend it.  One year we even had a field trip to the aquatic centre!  Other times we have spent half and donated half to a worthy cause.

It's small and manageable. Nothing hangs around the classroom more than a week or two, so "imperfect rinsing" doesn't result in any fruit flies at all.

1 comment:

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