Sept. 4, 2013. When Cove Creek Principal Toby Cone told first year middle school science teacher Eric Hoffman that the school’s recycling efforts could use a boost, Hoffman replied, “I’ve got some ideas.” As he began turning ideas into action, that response proved to be an understatement.
The day after his conversation with the principal, Hoffman contacted Watauga County Recycling Coordinator Lisa Doty about expanding Cove Creek’s recycling efforts. Her response was immediate and enthusiastic. Within days, she was speaking to an assembly of students and teachers about the types of materials that can be recycled, the benefits of recycling, how recycled materials are used and the wide variety of products that can be made from them, including student backpacks.
The school was already collecting paper, which is the largest component of waste stream for most schools, but only limited collections were in place for other commonly recycled materials such as plastic bottles, aluminum and steel cans and corrugated cardboard.
Hoffman also discovered that it wasn’t always convenient to recycle paper at school. He spoke to the persons who collected paper from the recycling bins and found out how far the bins had to be carried to be emptied and how they were being handled so that he could decide how many bins were needed and where they should be placed. He also began looking for ways to add more materials to the recycling program.
Once he determined what was needed in the way of recycling containers, Recycling Coordinator Lisa Doty helped out by providing additional recycling bins for paper and special plastic barrels for collecting bottles and cans.
In addition to his science classes, Hoffman teaches an exploratory class about recycling, and his recycling students place the additional containers around the school and posted fliers to
educate students and school personnel about the expanded recycling efforts. As a result of their efforts, larger volumes of paper, plastic bottles and beverage cans are being recovered, and plastic eating utensils and large steel food cans from the school cafeteria have been added to the materials collected. Students help get the materials to the right collection points where they are correctly sorted for pick up or for delivery to local recyclers.
Hoffman has a vision to scale up recycling not only at Cove Creek but throughout the school system.
“I’d like to get other schools involved and make it a competitive event,” Hoffman said.
“Maybe we can provide field trips to recycling businesses to help students understand the whole process, and offer some special incentives to reward their work.”
Like the good scientist he is, Hoffman wants to measure the results of the school’s recycling efforts. He’s looking for a grant to buy scales to weigh materials that are collected and he hopes to measure the percentage of the school’s total waste stream that is being diverted from landfills to recycling.
“Everybody’s fired up about it,” Hoffman said of the school’s recycling efforts, and he seems ready to keep them stoked. After all, like he told his principal, he’s got some ideas.