Presented by Nestle Pure Life Purified Water, the nationwide contest challenged participating elementary, middle and high school students to collect as many recyclables as possible from Oct. 15 through Nov. 15, 2013. During that time period, 6.4 million pounds were gathered, which Keep America Beautiful states “prevented the release of nearly 8,913 metric tons of carbon equivalent ... In real-world terms, this reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the annual emissions from 473 passenger cars.”
CMS captured the state award by collecting 22,000 pounds of recyclable materials, which amounts to 22 pounds for each student.
“I was very shocked to begin with,” CMS Assistant Principal Gregg Hedden said. “We put a lot of time and effort into the recycling contest. It was a big drive for Mr. [Ralph] Martin, our head custodian. He was retiring in December. I wanted to win that for him as a send-off because he really promoted our recycling program here.
“It was definitely a collective effort among the grade levels and the whole school, including the cafeteria. We had little contests. We had a phone book drive. We had recycling on the grade level, whether it be cleaning out your file cabinets or discarding consumables, whether it be workbooks or whatnot. Then we would measure the heights of the stacks. ... We promoted it within our [student population] and they could bring whether it be cardboard or paper from home to put in the recycling [bin]. And a lot of community members, they use the recycle bin anyway and they’ll bring the recyclables and put them in there. ... It kind of goes along with our motto, which is ‘whatever it takes.’ That’s what our students and staff did is whatever it takes to win the contest.”
In honor of its state award, CMS — under the leadership of Principal Kristy Arnold — earned $1,000 from the contest and locally received a proclamation from Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor, designating March 19, 2014, as “Cass Middle School Georgia Recycle-Bowl Champion Day.”
A portion of the proclamation stated, “Bartow County’s Cass Middle School is the 2013 Georgia Champion School for the entire State of Georgia in the School Only Division, recycling 22,000 pounds of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans in one month, or 22 pounds per student with 1,000 students on campus, while competing against 64 other Georgia schools.”
For CMS eighth-grader Dalton Rogers, who helps steer the school’s recycling efforts, the accolade and recognition was a rewarding experience.
“… I tried my hardest to get the whole school ready and prepared to try to win it. ... I’m the leader of it,” Rogers said, referring to CMS’ recycling endeavors. “We go around and collect at the recycling bins on the eighth-grade hall. I have two sixth-graders that do the sixth grade and connection hallway, and then me and another kid [collect items in] the gym.
“[This is important] because I [feel] like if we cut down on using so [many] trees, eventually that we’ll be able to save so many more trees if we recycle. And then, plastic — when they melt that down, we don’t have to use more material to create more. I believe that recycling is a very good thing and the whole world should be involved in it.”
CMS’ recent win is an extension of its year-round recycling efforts. Its participation in the Keep Bartow Beautiful School Recycling Contest has netted CMS the top prize of $500 in the middle/high school division for the past three school years, when the category was created. During the 2012-2013 school year, CMS collected 45,210 pounds of recyclable materials, which equates to 44 pounds per student.
“We’ve been working with Cass Middle School for several years now, because they’ve always been one of our top leaders as far as the school recycling goes,” Bartow County Recycling Coordinator Jerry Hames said. “I really wish all the schools would get involved as much as they do. [Their recycling] figures are very impressive. Besides being environmental stewards for our community, the efforts that they do and the material that they provide to us not only does that help the environment, that helps our local economy here in the Southeast. The way it does that is that we sell only to an end-mill or a user. By that I mean, our cardboard and paper would go to a local paper mill here in the Southeast, being Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
“We don’t do any export loads at all. We try not to sell to a middleman, like a broker. We sell only to an end user, that way we know where our material is going and it’s providing jobs here in the Southeast as well as helping out the economy. ... [Overall], anything that we can keep out of that landfill is a plus ... for the whole community in general. Our current landfill, we have quite a few years left in it but then we’re already in the process of building our next cell. As time goes on, every time we have to build a new cell, it’s going to be more and more expensive. So that’s a big incentive to keep what we can out of the landfill.”