Parents and students at Palmetto Elementary School have taken recycling matters into their own hands. This February, PES launched the first plastic and aluminum recycling program in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, hoping to be a pilot for the district and an example for the community. “The district currently offers paper and cardboard recycling, but with plastic waste as such a national and global issue, we knew we couldn’t wait any longer,” said Andrea Gonzalez, PES PTA president.
The program partners with Lady Green Recycling Co., a local responsible recycler, who provide the bins, labels, pick-ups, and perhaps most importantly, consultation on waste needs. Lady Green in turn partners with a local waste-to-energy facility, Covanta, in Doral, who generate enough electricity from waste incineration to power the facility, off-set its emissions, and provide power to 45,000 surrounding homes. “One of the most important steps in recycling is teaching what can and can’t be recycled. Otherwise, like we see on the news, our garbage just ends up in the landfills or oceans. But the kids at Palmetto have turned out to be the best learners,” says Michelle Salas, owner of Lady Green.
The children have embraced it completely, and are excited to be doing the right thing and helping the earth. “We teach our children the importance of recycling at home, and they need to continue it in the place they learn the most, at school.” says Jaquelina Henriquez, founder of the Palmetto Earth Program (PEP), an in-school environmental curriculum and sustainable initiatives program. Working together with PES Principal Eric Torres, program leaders took the time to educate students on the do’s and don’ts of recycling. Their goal is to first teach the students how to recycle properly, and next, teach them how to not recycle, or eliminate single-use plastics from our lives. “Palmetto has always been a school of firsts, and our recycling program is no different. This kids love it and are excited and involved in the process and future program growth,” said Torres.
Funding was raised by allowing families opportunities to “sponsor” bins or pick-ups, creating positive attention and early adoption for the program. Next on the agenda – and in celebration of Earth Day – PEP is conducting a Recycling Bin Decorating Contest, where the students can submit their ideas on how to decorate the recycling bins. The winner gets their design displayed on the school’s bins, and of course, bragging rights.