Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Patuxent Elementary students spread the word on recycling

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Raphael Talisman⁄The Star
Patuxent Elementary School fifth-grader Aquilah Nelson, 10, of Bowie hands out recycling bags and stickers promoting recycling to budget analyst Bryan Simmons of Accokeek on Jan. 30. The Patuxent Elementary School Student Recycling Team paid a visit to the Prince George’s County School Administration Building to encourage recycling among employees.
Students from Patuxent Elementary School urged adults who work in the Prince George’s County school system to recycle so today’s children will one day inherit a healthy planet.

‘‘We recycle because it’s important to conserve natural resources so that we have natural resources in the future,” sixth-grader Nathaniele Celestin said Wednesday in the boardroom of the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.

Nathaniele and three other Patuxent students visited the school system’s central office Jan. 30 to help administrators announce that a paper recycling program being implemented this school year in elementary schools was now starting in county administrative offices as well.

The program, called the Litter Free Schools initiative, is meant to promote environmental consciousness and cut down on trash. By instilling good habits, it also can help save the county money. It costs $8 million a year to collect litter from the county’s 1,700 miles of roads, officials said.

With nearly 60 schools participating, the program will be extended to middle and high schools next year. But in the meantime, school officials felt they should not ask students to do something they were not doing.

‘‘We think it’s about time to do this at our office,” deputy superintendent of public schools William Hite said. ‘‘Just knowing how much paper comes through my office, multiplied by all the offices here, it’s the right thing to do.”

Administrators began paper recycling again Jan. 30 after many years off, said county schools spokeswoman Lynn McCawley. Recycling was stopped years ago because of the cost, but the new service is provided free through one of the program’s sponsors, Abitibi Consolidated Inc.

The Patuxent students, including sixth-grader Antwan Benjamin and fifth-graders Aquilah Nelson and Matthew Brown, first talked about the importance of recycling during a news conference in the board room.

‘‘In our school, we recycle as much as we can,” Aquilah, 10, said.

Students put blue recycling bins in every Patuxent Elementary School classroom which will be emptied each Tuesday, she said.

‘‘If you recycle bottles, cans or anything, you save the environment, because they take trash to the landfill and burn it, and it causes air pollution,” Antwan, 11, said.

The Patuxent students are even doing their part to offset carbon emissions.

‘‘At school we planted more than 500 trees and shrubs in order to reduce air pollution in the community,” Matthew, 10, said.

After the 20-minute conference, the students went from office to office asking county school employees to start putting their paper trash in the cardboard recycling boxes that recently had been distributed. The students also handed out stickers and bookmarks as reminders.

‘‘I think it’s great because we’re usually the ones trying to tell them what to do,” said Gwyn Joyce, who works in the human resources department. ‘‘Now we need to follow their lead and listen to them.”

While everyone the students talked to during their visit seemed willing to listen, getting people to recycle is not always easy, the students said.

‘‘It’s hard because some friends say their family doesn’t recycle because they don’t believe people might die because of pollution,” Nathaniele, 11, said. ‘‘I try to tell them life would be much harder without resources.”

‘‘It depends on their personality,” Aquilah agreed.

Patuxent Elementary has been running its own student-involved recycling program for 10 years, said James Jackson, a physical education teacher at the school who accompanied the students on their visit.

‘‘It’s a community and school effort,” Jackson said.

E-mail Andy Zieminski at azieminski@gazette.net