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Schools earn green buck$ by recycling

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE Quinn Moxley sorts recyclables stored in Katy Preston's Milwaukie garage. Preston turns in the recyclables to TerraCycle and donates the proceeds to Camp Quest, an overnight camp for kids with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome.Hayhurst Elementary in Southwest Portland has gone from using seven 30-gallon bags of waste each lunch period to just half a bag.

What’s the school’s secret?

Hayhurst PTA sustainability chairwoman Kendall KIC, (who legally changed her name to all caps), says that back in November of 2009 she discovered a program online called TerraCycle and has since kept 9,000 juice pouches out of the trash.

Capri Sun and other juice pouches had been among a slew of items difficult for schools to recycle, so kids ended up just throwing them in the garbage. But TerraCycle provides Hayhurst’s sustainability “brigade” with prepaid labels to ship out hard-to-recycle items, such as drink pouches, candy wrappers, chip bags and flip-flops.

The New Jersey-based company makes money from recycling the products and shares its earnings by granting points for the brigade to earn cash for the school or a favorite charity.

“Over time, it’s slowly building so people realize that we’re doing this,” KIC says. “My goal is at least 5,000 juice pouches collected during this upcoming school year.”

She keeps them packed in a yard-debris bag in her garage, but recently a school custodian allowed her space in the Hayhurst boiler room, where the juice pouches can dry. Some money comes back to the PTA for funding school activities, but that’s not the emphasis for organizers.

“About $200 a school year is not really what it’s about for us; it’s more about the sustainability piece,” KIC says.

Apparently, the secret is getting out, as this will also be the third year of a TerraCycle program at Sojourner School in Milwaukie. “Sojo” is an alternative magnet school and, at about 186 students, the smallest elementary in North Clackamas School District. Known for a high number of volunteer hours parents put in, it turned out to be a perfect early adopter of a TerraCycle program.

Starting with juice pouches in the first year, the Sojo program added toothpaste tubes, flip-flops, glue sticks and tape rings last year. TerraCycle program coordinator and former PTA Vice President Polly Lugosi says the brigades have extended their reach to neighbors not usually involved with the school. They’ve taken to collecting from soccer games.

“I find that people don’t throw them away even when they’re not at school,” Lugosi says.

At a holiday assembly this year, Lugosi says students will get a chance to vote on charities to donate about $100 collected from the program.

TerraCycle spokeswoman Lauren Taylor says a lot of people find out about the programs through the packaging, such as by seeing the labels on Capri Sun juice boxes, and then they go to the website.

“It’s very easy for people to sign up based on the waste stream they’re looking to collect,” Taylor says.

Nationally, TerraCycle says its programs have raised $4.5 million for charity, thanks to nearly 31 million people collecting trash.

All schools are eligible, Taylor says. A tax ID number is necessary so the money can go to charity. The revenue from recycling can go to any charity — even the National Rifle Association (we asked).

The growing list of Portland-area schools getting involved includes Menlo Park Elementary School, David Douglas Arthur Academy, Faithful Savior Ministries, Earl Boyles Elementary, Mount Scott Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, John Wetten Elementary, Chief Joseph Elementary, Sauvie Island Academy, John Jacob Astor Elementary, Markham Elementary, Laurelhurst Elementary, Parklane Elementary, Lynch Meadows Elementary and Creative Science School.