Andrea Joule, a student from Soldotna High School, dumps a container full of aluminum cans into a recycling receptacle at the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna Saturday morning during the Great Aluminum Can Round-up. The event offers the public a way to profit from recycling.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Since its inception, Earth Day has been a day devoted to caring for the planet, and Kenai Peninsula youth showed how much they cared this Saturday during the annual Great Aluminum Can Roundup held at the Central Peninsula Landfill on the Sterling Highway.
The roundup now in its 10th year was the culmination of an event that began months ago, according to Barbara Maynard of Green Star, a nonprofit that encourages waste reduction, energy conservation and pollution prevention. Green Start was the can collecting event’s major sponsor, along with Alaska Waste and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Solid Waste Department.
“It began in November on national America Recycles Day. Over the months youth groups brought in cans. We weigh them and then the borough handles them and brings them to Anchorage through their recycling program,” Maynard said.
Jack Maryott, manager of the landfill, has also taken a shine to the can collection event.
“It’s a really good program,” he said. “It helps the schools and it helps the landfill because typically, aluminum recycling as a whole offsets the cost of shipping other recyclables like newspaper, cardboard and plastic.”
Cans are crushed and bailed into cubes weighing up to a ton.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
According to Maryott, other recyclables don’t fetch nearly what aluminum does.
“Aluminum’s the money maker,” he said.
Making money off the cans is part of the reason Green Star encourages youth to get involved with the event, according to Maynard.
“There’s two aspects to it. One is the kids collect cans and get $.17 per pound collected to be used for whatever they choose,” she said, adding that youth typically spend the money on field trips, extracurricular activities and charities.
In addition to the sale of cans, Maynard said youth groups receive cash awards for bringing in the most cans.
“The other aspect of this program is it helps raise awareness of recycling and gets kids thinking about it and the environmental benefits of turning in cans for recycling rather then them ending up in the landfill,” she said.
Maynard added that many youth are shocked to learn how much of a difference recycling can make.
“It takes the same amount of energy to make one aluminum can from new metal as it does to make 20 out of used materials. It’s a 95 percent energy savings,” she said.
Of the nine participating youth groups, seven of them were school groups. Several adults involved in these programs said the kids collecting cans learn a lot about recycling, but also about the rewards of hard work.
“They learn about conservation, community pride and community spirit and hopefully what they learn will carry over into their everyday lives,” said Ken Roser, who works with the Kenai Middle School group.
“It’s also an incentive because kids that collect 10 pounds of aluminum also get to sign up first for our mini-courses,” Roser added.
These courses include hiking, rafting trips and other excursions, so the kids are motivated to collect cans, he explained.
Stephanie Cox, a teacher at Soldotna High School, also entices students to be involved in the recycling program.
“If kids bring in 10 pounds of cans, they can get extra credit in class. It’s a very good motivator because they all want good grades,” she said.
Andrea Joule, a student at SoHi, said the extra credit was a big part of why she participated in the program, but added she got a lot more out of it than just a few points toward a higher grade.
“I learned it’s important to recycle. I don’t recycle at my house, but we drink a lot of soda and recycling seems like such a good idea for the environment that I may start,” Joule said.
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