“It’s amazing, $50,000 with stuff people would mostly put in their trash cans.”
One man’s trash has definitely been Midway Middle School’s treasure, earning them approximately $50,000 since 2012, all from recycling.
The school has won and placed in recycling contests over the years and used their winnings towards green improvements at the school.
Joy Kennedy, gifted math teacher for sixth through eighth grade, is over the school’s recycling program and Green Team. Green Team is a group of 25 students who help with recycling and planting.
This year the school earned eighth place in the PepsiCo Recycle Rally and will receive $4,000. The contest focuses on recycling bottles and cans.
Kennedy weighed the bottles and cans and entered the amounts periodically online. PepsiCo sent an auditor a few of times throughout the year to check on the school’s recycling.
For the 2013-2014 school year Midway Middle won first place and received $25,000.
The school also placed first this year in the state of Georgia for The Great American Can Roundup and received $1,000. Schools across the nation collected as many aluminum cans as possible per student.
Midway Middle recycled 3,080 pounds for 733 students, which equals 4.2 pounds per capita.
MMS has come in first place for Georgia three years in a row.
Kennedy said she always recycled before working at Midway Middle.
The school had a recycle program with the Builders Club. Kennedy was put in charge of the Builders Club which evolved into the Green Team.
The Green Team also plants trees with Keep Liberty Beautiful and volunteers in the annual Great American Cleanup.
“I found out about PepsiCo and we’ve been recycling anyway so why not join the contest,” Kennedy said. “We’ve used some of our prized money to build two outdoor pavilions with picnic tables and outdoor classrooms. We’ve also put a recycle bin in each classroom.”
Across from Kennedy’s classroom is the recycle room where students sort through recycling dropped off by community members, parents, students and teachers.
There are two recycle drop off areas outside the school.
Once sorted and weighed the items are put in bags and taken outside to be picked up by the Liberty County Solid Waste Authority for recycling.
The school recycles cans, bottles, various types of plastics such as milk jugs, paper and other items people wouldn’t think to recycle.
Midway Middle also participates with TerraCycle, which recycles the “non-recyclable” such as markers, coffee capsules, pens, plastic gloves and almost any form of waste.
“They take items like solo cups and toothbrushes,” Kennedy said. “So we’re mailing off shampoo, conditioners, drink pouches, beauty care, soap, makeup, deodorant, cereal bags, toothpaste and Terracycle gives us 2 cents each for that. They provide us with the UPS label so all it takes is our time.”
The school usually gets $300 to $400 dollars a year from TerraCycle and any nonprofit organization can do it, Kennedy said.
MMS Principal Debra Frazier called Kennedy the mastermind behind it all.
“She gets very excited about recycling and motivates others,” Frazier said.
Kennedy credits the community and students for their recycling success.
“People have been dropping off their recycling for years. We have churches, community members, parents and students. People who no longer have students enrolled in our school continue to drop off their recycling and that’s why we continue to be so successful,” Kennedy said.
PepsiCo also provides the school with various gift cards, once the school has collected a certain amount, which Kennedy will use as an incentive during in-school contests and when the school hosts community programs.
Kennedy said it gets quite competitive at the school during contests.
In February the recycling contest was for the top recycler among students and teachers. March was which homeroom is top recycler and in April it was which grade could recycle the most.
Other times students and teachers will get rewarded with dress-down days after bringing in a certain number of bottles.
“We got an amazing program and it’s possible because of our community and students,” Kennedy said.
Sara Swida, executive director of Keep Liberty Beautiful, said KLB helps provide the bins, bags and recycling promotions within the school.
“They’re the ones that do all the hard work. They’re pretty awesome,” Swida said. “We’ve been happy to partner with them over the years. They’re great recycling volunteers. I don’t believe there’s a school in Georgia that has received more accolades for recycling.”
MMS has earned national and state awards since 2010, such as a national award for Keep America Beautiful.
Kennedy believes that people are thinking differently about recycling.
“You have to ingrain it,” she said. “Some people never recycle and you start and make it contest, now teachers who used to throw things away are like, ‘I can’t throw anything away, even at home.’ So you change the mentality and its happening with the students too. When you have new teachers that come in the students say, ‘Oh you can’t throw that away, we have recycling.’”
Kennedy also thanked Principal Frazier for her support.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without her approval and giving us her support,” Kennedy said. “I’ll come to her with an idea, she’ll ask what it’s about and lets me run with it.
Kennedy hopes other schools will enter into recycling contests to earn funds for their school.