Recycling Comes to Local School Sports Fields

Grosse Pointe Public Schools (GPPSS) are on their way to diverting over a half million drink bottles—over six tons worth of plastic—from landfills and incineration. That’s how much Thomas Zaglaniczny, Supervisor of Energy and Building Operations, estimates is thrown away each year at the sports fields associated with the schools. This summer, after a successful first year of fundraising, the district placed thirteen recycling bins at six different school locations. Two more await signage and soon will be sited at two additional fields.

Thirsty athletes and spectators alike previously only had two options after guzzling their bottles of water and sports drinks: throw the bottles away or bring them home to put in a curbside bin. A few parents dutifully brought the empty—and sometimes sticky—bottles home. But, these dedicated efforts didn’t stop trash cans from overflowing with plastic bottles after each game.

Both parents and children noticed this lack of recycling didn’t coincide with the “green” message students received during the school day. Waste paper and plastic is collected in cardboard receptacles in the classrooms for recycling, two schools have programs to collect and recycle drinkboxes, and students are encouraged to recycle at home as well. Why not at the sports fields?

To fill the gap, the school district’s Green Team, which includes teachers, administrators, and parents, created the goal of placing 37 recycling bins at 14 field locations. Just like the trash cans at the fields, the recycling bins are maintained by the sports teams after each game. The athletes take the bin contents to the school building, where they are joined with the other recyclables.

Funding the effort

Individual schools continue to raise funds for the remainder bins. Bottle and can collections, silly hat days (students pay $1 to wear a silly hat to school), teacher blue jean days, penny and nickel drives, and Terracycle Brigades ® are all various ways schools have been raising money. Funds from public electronics recycling collections and individual donors have also contributed to the recycling bins now in place. Schools can sponsor a bin—and have their logo placed on the side—for $200, thanks to the local non-profit Ecology Center and the Worthington Family Foundation.

Recycling bin in place at Maire Elementary School near both the ball field and the playgroundThe Ecology Center first approached the school district in early 2014 with the proposal for the recycling bin project after concerned parents reached out to the organization. Mr. Zaglaniczny and other school officials were quick to accept the partnership due to previous successful joint projects, as well as the district’s commitment to recycling.

Later that year, the Ecology Center received a grant from the Worthington Family Foundation for environmental educational materials, a portion of which is used to bring down the schools’ cost of the bins from $500 to $200.

Businesses and organizations are welcome to sponsor a bin at the $500 level; in return receiving their logo in place on a bin for the life of the bin (5 – 15 years). The Neighborhood Club is the first private donor to support the effort. Their bin is used by families at the tot lot at Elworthy Field and is maintained by GPPSS.

This past school year five of the seven elementary schools, one of the three middle schools, and one of two high schools raised the funds to get the district almost half way to its goal. The fundraising effort continues to grow. The Green Team expects the remainder of the funds to be raised this 2015/16 school year.

Educational Materials

Morning announcements at the schools spread the message about the importance of recycling and what can—and what cannot—go in the bins. The school district is working with the Ecology Center to plan Family Fun Nights and other events, as well as expanded in-school programming to continue the education efforts.

Bins in Use

The new bins—each weighing 80 pounds with a mesh metal base—are sturdy and heavy enough to stay in place. But, they are light enough that for special occasions, such as the annual high school rivalry football game, the district can consolidate the bins to one location. All 13 bins were used this past fall for that event, stationed at the tailgating section and getting emptied out multiple times throughout the evening, according to Mr. Zaglaniczny. During the winter, the bins will be transported indoors and used in the gym areas, hallways and lunchrooms.

In just the first few months since the 13 bins have been in place, elementary and middle school trash pick up has gone from three times per week to two, with dumpsters only ¾ full; rather than completely full. Mr. Zaglaniczny doesn’t want to stop the recycling project once the 37 sports field bins are in place. Next on the agenda are permanent bins in each classroom to replace the cardboard receptacles that need to be purchased new each year.