SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- As the school year winds down, kids and teachers will clean out their desks and pitch the stuff that they don't need anymore.
At Benton Elementary School, a large portion of that trash will be recycled.
The school's recycling program just got some support from Martin's Supermarket in the form of a $1,000 grant.
Benton Elementary's recycling program was developed by three girls when they were in the 4th grade.
“This whole entire thing started when we were in the cafeteria,” said Abigail Elledge, a 6th grader. “I noticed there were a lot of plastic cups that could be recycled.”
“So we just started a petition, and by the time we were in 5th grade we had recycling bins everywhere, and we were ready to recycle,” said Mackayla Stutsman, a 6th grader. “
“I think we've helped a lot, schools use obviously a lot of paper because there are about 30 kids in each class and if they're all throwing away paper they're not helping the environment,” said Carsin Stutzman, a 6th grader.
Teacher Sarah Elledge is impressed.
“They are very persistent,” said Elledge. “They knew what they wanted, and they went after it.”
They do all the work. The entire building is encouraged to recycle, and the girls collect materials once a week.
There are three bins that the girls use to go down the hallways and pick up the recyclable material from every classroom.
Then they carry the material out to a dumpster and the material gets picked up every other week. By then the large dumpster is full.
“Sometimes it's overflowing,” said Elledge. “We're at the point now if we wanted to do more recycling, some of the stuff out of the cafeteria that we're not recycling right now, we would probably have to get a larger bin.”
That would cost more money, and after struggling to raising funds when a student council fundraiser didn't meet their goal, local sponsor Stutsman Dentistry stepped up.
The Martin's Supermarket Grant will be a big help.
“This $1,000 will fund our recycling program for two full years,” said Elledge. “We are making a difference. This effort needs to continue but we can't do it without funding it.”
It's a program that teaches a lot more than recycling.
“Every school should be doing it because it makes such a difference for our environment, and the kids need to do it as well, because they need to start the habit of recycling here at school, and a lot of them realize now through recycling at school the importance of recycling at home too,” said Elledge.
Something good started by kids.
“Kids have really good ideas that could change the community for the better,” said Mackayla Stutsman.
Wednesday was the last day of school for the kids at Benton Elementary, and those sixth grade girls are moving on to Fairfield Jr.-Sr. High School, but they're leaving the recycling program in good hands.
They've already trained several fourth graders on how to do their job.
If you'd like to nominate your school for a “One School at a Time Grant” just fill out an application by clicking here.
The winning school gets a $1,000 from Martin's Supermarket, and a new winner is picked each month during the school year.