By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Think before you toss it out
MMS converts recyclables to cash
Midway Middle School students Destiny Buchanan, Tatiana White and Shane Amason sort and scan bottles and cans May 11 for one of the schools recycling programs. The school has received more than $465 from national programs that reduce waste. - photo by Danielle Hipps

You may not think twice before throwing out snack packaging, but one teacher at Midway Middle School has turned tons of trash into hundreds in cash.

“It’s amazing how many items we’ve sent off,” eighth-grade math teacher Joy Kennedy said. “Just last night, I requested a check for $150, and you think, 2 cents each to get that much? That’s amazing, and that would be just trash that we’d thrown away.”

Kennedy oversees the school’s recycling and “up-cycling” efforts.

As one of the top collectors in a national recycling program run by TerraCycle, the school has earned more than $465 for repurposing previously non-recyclables, according to company spokeswoman Lauren Taylor.

TerraCycle’s Brigade program offers free collection of items such as drink pouches, chip bags, toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes.

They convert the items into new products, such as tote bags and watering cans. Participating schools receive points for each unit of waste turned in.

MMS has kept more than 21,811 items out of landfills, and the school gets 2 cents for each item.

The Builders Club launched the project three years ago, and now it has grown into a community-wide effort.

“I’m sure we could push it more, and every year it gets bigger and bigger,” Kennedy said.

Funds go to the school and provide projects like pizza-party incentives during a food drive.  

Students, such as eighth graders Tatiana White and Destiny Buchanan, organize and track items during their homeroom period.
White said her family recycles at home, but she got involved to feel like she’s doing more for the environment. Now, she saves items from home to bring to the drive.

“I’ve learned that some people think that recycling isn’t important, but at the end of the day, when you think of what all has been done and where this is going, it really is important,” Buchanan added.

Keep Liberty Beautiful Executive Director Sara Swida provided bins and items to collect and track items to the school.

“I doubt there are many schools in the United States that recycle as much as they do,” Swida said.

She also commended Kennedy for her dedication.

“The kids never forget this. They want to recycle everything, and I hope that’s something they’ll keep on doing even into their adulthood …,” she added.

The school also participates in a Pepsi Co. initiative to recycle non-alcoholic beverage bottles and cans. The students scan the bottles, which are worth a single point each, into a program-provided laptop that tracks the bottles, which are then locally recycled. The school converts those points into gift cards.  

Each year, the school also collects 50 to 75 pounds of can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, which converts the tabs into cash through recycling centers.

Though the school year is winding down, Kennedy said they still will accept items during summer.

“I think it’s neat when people say, ‘Oh, don’t throw that away’ — and sometimes they do it picking on me,” Kennedy said. “But then I think they’ve realized that we are lessening the landfills, and we’re doing something to help the environment.”

Recycling at Midway Middle

Midway Middle school receives credit through various programs for recycling the following items:
• Snack packaging: includes bags for chips, pretzels, cereals, candy and cookies
• Dairy packaging: includes tubs and lids for cream cheese, yogurt and margarine
• Drink pouches: aluminum and plastic
• Oral care: toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, floss containers
• Baby care: packaging for diapers and wipes
• School and office supplies: glue bottles and sticks, pens, tape dispensers and tape spools, batteries, inkjet and toner cartridges
• Plastic bottles and aluminum cans that did not contain alcohol

Drop items off at the school office or email Joy Kennedy at

Sign up for our e-newsletters