Kelly Crews, a first-grade teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, with some of the masses of plastic bags the school has collected as part of a recycling program happening in seven Suffolk public schools until Monday.
Kelly Crews, a first-grade teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, with some of the masses of plastic bags the school has collected as part of a recycling program happening in seven Suffolk public schools until Monday.

Archived Story

Bagging an important lesson

Published 11:16pm Monday, April 15, 2013

The end is near for a recycling program at seven Suffolk public schools that aims to keep as many plastic bags as possible out of landfills.

Kelly Crews, Booker T. Washington Elementary School’s coordinator for the recycling drive, reported strong participation in the program.

Two collection boxes in the cafeteria are filled regularly, she said. They will be emptied for the final time after the program ends Monday.

“I empty them out weekly,” Crews said.

Kathy Rose, a full-time volunteer at Booker T. Washington, has also rallied Whaleyville Ruritan Club to the cause.

Collecting bags for Booker T. Washington is an official club project, and Rose regularly brings in a batch.

“They bring the bags to me, and I load up my Jeep Wrangler and bring them here,” she said.

Schools collecting the bags for Winchester-based Trex, which claims to be the country’s largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing products, are competing for a bench constructed from the material.

Rounding out the field are Elephant’s Fork, Florence Bowser, Kilby Shores, Mack Benn Jr., Northern Shores and Southwestern elementary schools, along with Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools.

This is the fourth year of collecting bags. Booker T. Washington has never won a bench, but does have a Trex birdhouse in its garden, which each school receives as a reward for its efforts.

“Recycling is one of our SOLs (Standards of Learning) for this year,” Crews said. “It gives them a connection with the real world.

“It’s just a fun thing to get the students involved in the environment. Each school gets something for their efforts.”

Art teacher Angela Salerno coordinates the program at Kilby Shores Elementary, which has won two benches for collecting the most bags.

“It’s not whether we win or lose; it’s just that we are saving the planet,” Salerno said.

It hits home with students when they are told that all the bags they collect could otherwise have wound up in the landfill, she said.

Students are reminded about the program during morning announcements, and parents during Parent-Teacher Association meetings, Salerno added.

“The kids are bringing in a lot of bags,” she said. “It isn’t as many as in the past, just because people are recycling bags on their own. But that’s a good thing.”

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