Texarkana Students Earn Honors
Arkansas High garners first place in state for Keep America Beautiful recycling efforts
By: Brenda Brown – Texarkana Gazette
Arkansas High School’s Environmental and Spatial Technology students recycled almost 6 tons of paper and cardboard in one month and earned first-place honors in a Keep America Beautiful contest.
Brandy Chewning-Lewis, recycling coordinator for Texarkana, Ark., Public Works Department, said this is the first year the AHS EAST team has taken part in the city’s recycling program, and the teens topped her wildest expectations, collecting 11,691 pounds of recyclable materials in one month and earning the state’s top Recycle Bowl award.
Keep America Beautiful, which focuses on litter prevention, waste reduction/recycling, community beautification, has sponsored the Recycle-Bowl since 2010. The event is a nationwide recycling competition for elementary and middle- and high-school students and is open to every school and community in the nation. KAB awards top winners in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and names one school as a national winner.
“Our city’s recycling program is new, and the recycling program at Texarkana, Ark., School District is brand new, so I just asked if any campuses were interested in entering the Recycle Bowl. I never expected we would win,” Chewning-Lewis said. “These kids just went crazy, and they’re still collecting tons of recyclables.”
The four-week competition ran Oct. 20 through Nov. 15, 2014.
“They started out strong at AHS and, truthfully, I thought the kids would slow down, but they were consistent all four weeks and won first in the state, and it was their first time to enter,” Chewning-Lewis said. “Aside from being so proud of these kids for winning the Arkansas state school division contest, I think it really says a lot about the character of these kids and what they can accomplish. They beat out … places that are bigger than us and have been doing this a long time.”
She noted the win for the AHS EAST students is especially sweet because their sponsor moved out of town at the beginning of the school year, so everything they did was of their own volition.
“These kids collected almost 6 tons in four weeks. They collected from all over the campus, picking up every scrap including Post-It notes. They took this project really seriously,” Chewning-Lewis said.
When school is in session, the city collects recyclables every Wednesday, and the materials are weighed and tracked, both for the city’s and for TASD’s benefit.
“That way the kids can say, ‘This is what we did for our community. We kept this many tons out of the landfill this year,’” Chewning-Lewis said.
The city’s recycling center employees sort and sell the materials to commercial recyclers.
“This makes a little profit for the recycling center so we are able to give a little money back to the school a couple of times a year. It’s a win-win situation. The students are keeping stuff out of landfill, learning about the environment and doing a community-service project. And they get a little bit of a reward at the end,” Chewning-Lewis said.
Three other TASD campuses are taking part in the city’s recycling program, as well. Students from College Hill Elementary, College Hill Middle School, North Heights Junior High School and AHS have collected 61,084 pounds of paper and cardboard since classes began last fall.
“TASD is taking recycling very serious, and I’m delighted to see it. The staff and the students believe in recycling, and that’s so important,” she said. “They give me hope for the future, and I hope they keep doing this for a long time. I also hope Arkansas High will come back and defend their Recycle Bowl title, because they are now the defending state champs,” she said.
The city doesn’t offer curbside pickup, but area residents and businesses are welcomed to bring their recyclables to the center at 2601 Dudley St. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.
“You don’t have to be an Texarkana, Ark., resident to recycle with us,” Chewning-Lewis said.
For America Recycles Day, I have taken the “I Recycle” Pledge, and I invite you to join me and commit to recycle more. Click here to take the pledge: pledging to recycle more.