By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Columbus students reduce, reuse, recycle

Instead of tossing empty juice pouches and granola bar wrappers into the trash, Columbus Elementary School students are recycling them by sending them to a company that uses them to make new products.

The project is good for the environment, good for the instructional program and good for the school, said CB Mason of the Columbus PTA.

She collects the recycled packages and prepares them for shipping to Terracycle, the remanufacturing company. In return, Terracycle offers cash the school can use for educational activities or equipment, or points the school can exchange for the company’s products. This year, she said, Columbus is using points to “buy” pencil bags that will serve as prizes for winners of the jog-a-thon.

Grandhaven Elementary School had been involved in Terracycle recycling projects in the past. Mason learned about that school’s successes and brought the idea to Columbus two years ago.

At first, Columbus students recycled only aluminum and plastic juice pouches. It has collected more than 13,000 so far, picking them up at a clip of about 125 a week.

Last year, an after-school recycling club added granola and energy bar wrappers. This year, it’s expanded to other food packaging —chip bags, salty snack bags, cheese packaging, tortilla and tortilla chip bags, and tubs and lids that held cream cheese, yogurt, butter and other dairy products.

In addition, students also can recycle mechanical pencils, pens, markers, Elmer’s glue packages, plastic tape dispensers and tape cores.

Used batteries are being collected separately. PTA members will take them to local hazardous waste collection events.

Teachers and staff members taught their students about the recycling project, explaining what could be recycled and how to do it. Students drop items into marked bins in the cafeteria, often encouraging one another to recycle rather than throwing things away.

“My fourth-grader, Isaac, will see a friend with a package and tell him he can put it in the Terracycle box. A lot of kids do that,” Mason said.

The PTA volunteer collects the recyclables on Fridays, spending about 30 minutes a week on the project. “It’s cumbersome to some extent, but I remind myself every week that we’re taking things out of the waste stream and earning a little money for the school.

“And usually, several kids from Kids on the Block want to help,” she said. “The kids are pretty excited.”

More information about the recycled materials company can be found at

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