Rural Missouri - April 2013 - (Page 22)

It’s All About Redemption Purdy students give back through their nationally recognized recycling effort M 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 adviser. Gerry says there was a core group of dedicated students who gathered recyclable items 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 a broker. “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 cling brokers. 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. • Purdy 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 trash.” 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 school students has managed, Gerry says it’s sad to participate in 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. 22 For more information, contact Gerry Wass via e-mail at 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
Companion planting
News Briefs
Operation cooperation
It’s all about redemption
Best of rural Missouri
Hearth and Home
Marmaduke’s Cape expedition
Around Missouri
The soldier’s paper

Rural Missouri - April 2013