Rural Missouri - April 2013 - (Page 22)
It’s All About Redemption
Purdy students give back through their nationally recognized recycling effort
by Heather Berry
ilk jugs with the lids on, sour milk still
inside. Plastic soda bottles with tobacco
juice inside. Undrained beverage cans.
Unrinsed dog food and tuna cans.
To most people, that might sound pretty gross,
but for the members of the Purdy High School Spanish Club, it doesn’t take long to get over the yucky
details when they think of their end goal.
In 2006, the Purdy Recycling Project was founded
by the club. The program was developed to give students a chance to learn about recycling as well as to
raise funds for their club and community. Today, it’s
turning tons of refuse into thousands of dollars.
“When I joined, I didn’t want to help recycle,”
says club member Isel Ibarra, 17. “But now I realize
the opportunities that it’s given us to help the community and I think it’s great.”
The Purdy High School senior quickly adds, “And
I’m not afraid to stick my hand in something nasty
now if I can recycle the container.”
The club, established in 1999, always had done
community service by cleaning the school park,
painting bridges and planting ﬂowers, but the students wanted to do more. The club needed a mission
as well as a way to raise funds for projects.
Not surprisingly, the town of Purdy, population
1,100, already was inundated by other school clubs
doing fundraising year-round, leaving the Spanish
Club to wonder if there was anything left they could
do to raise money.
“I realized we didn’t have a community recycling
program and wondered if that might be the answer,”
says Gerry Wass,
the world languages instructor for
the Purdy School
District as well as
the Purdy Recycling Project
Gerry says there was a core
group of dedicated students
every Friday at
school, but they
usually ended up
giving away everything but the aluminum
cans because there wasn’t
enough of the items to attract
“People look at us now and
wonder how we did this,” says
Gerry. “They don’t realize we started with nothing. We used large
cardboard boxes to collect paper
and went step by step, grant by
grant to build up to what we have.”
Today the school has a 36-by70-foot metal building that houses balers, conveyors, crushers and containers to
collect and sort donations. Located next to the high
school, it houses items from the school district as
the recycling project, putting in hundreds of hours
well as from the community and surrounding area.
of community service as volunteers. They collect,
Paper goods, books, plastic, aluminum cans, tin cans
sort and staff the recycling center on collection day,
with labels, cardboard and used oil ﬁlters are only
which currently is Tuesday from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. As
some of the items that are sorted and sold to recythey work, the kids learn team building, leadership
skills and gain camaraderie with fellow students.
“I’m really proud of them,” says Gerry. “Little
According to Gerry, recycling prices are unpredictdid we know seven years later this would turn into
able. When the economy is down, so are recycling
600,000 pounds of recycled trash so far.”
prices — which aren’t that high to begin with.
With the teacher’s help, the group
Most recycled materials are worth between $5
received several grants that helped
and $100 per ton, so it takes quite a haul to
them buy equipment as well as build
make much money.
the recycling center. One thing they’re
That said, during the past seven years,
extremely proud of is the fact that the
the club has been able to make donabuilding’s oil furnace runs entirely on used
tions toward upgrading playground
oil they drain from the ﬁlters they collect
equipment as well as offering this
and crush for recycling.
year’s senior class $3,200 in scholar“We still believe we’re the only schoolship money.
based, industrial recycling program in the
nation,” says the teacher. “There are schools who
“I believe this project gives the
kids who participate a sense of belonging, because
recycle, but none we’ve found at this level.”
not only are they recycling for our school and comOver the past few years, the club has received
munity, but they’re doing something that will make
several awards, including the prestigious SeaWorld/
our world a better place for years to come,” says Julie
Busch Garden Environmental Excellence Award,
Terry, an Ozark Electric Cooperative member who
which paid for winning groups to ﬂy to Orlando and
helps out the group by recycling.
pick up the $10,000 cash award.
“Recycling only takes a few extra seconds and
Hoping to see other schools around Missouri and
a fairly small amount of space in your home or
across the country do what they’re doing, the group
garage,” adds Julie. “I have recycled so long that
created “Bringing It Back Around,” a how-to guide
I truly feel guilty if I throw a small receipt in the
that tells other schools how to help students start
their own recycling program. But so far, any interFor hard-core students, the school offers recycling
ested schools have been intimidated when they see
classes each school day. The school is even talking
Purdy’s building, equipment and all they handle.
about offering a high school class for credit this sumCurrently, more than 20 high school students and
mer, if they can raise money for two teachers.
nearly 40 middle
With all of the recycling the center
has managed, Gerry says it’s sad to
know that there’s a lot more that
could be done — both to help the
kids raise money and
help the community.
“We’ve long thought
that a quarter million
dollars in recyclable materials leaves the school district in
the trash each year. On our best
year, we’ve only gotten about $6,000
of that,” says Gerry.
The teacher says for this to happen,
the center will need to add a
few things — a more
convenient dropoff center, as
well as upgraded
forklifts and processing machines.
But the biggest
need is the easiest
need to answer.
“We need everyone’s
stuff,” says Isel. “What you
think is trash helps us make
money which we give back to
the community in one form or
another. It comes full circle.”
Left: Daniel Burke, Abigail Ibarra, Isbel Ibarra and Isel Ibarra, help
prepare cardboard boxes for recycling. Center: Art students Susan
Vang, left, and Sarah Ly bring their paper scraps to the recycling center.
Right: Bailey Miller and Daniel Burke drain the oil ﬁlters picked up from
businesses before compacting them for recycling purposes. The center
recycles the ﬁlter oil to run their furnace in the shop.
For more information, contact Gerry
Wass via e-mail at gerry@purdyK12.com or
by calling the high school at 417-4423215.
The club’s 60-page how-to manual,
“Bringing It Back Around: The Story of the
Purdy Recycling Project,” can be purchased
for $25 by schools desiring to pursue their
own industrial recycling program. The club also is
happy to speak to groups about their program.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - April 2013
Rural Missouri - April 2013
Table of Contents
It’s all about redemption
Best of rural Missouri
Hearth and Home
Marmaduke’s Cape expedition
The soldier’s paper
Rural Missouri - April 2013
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