Indiana, PA - Indiana County

UNITED: Elementary students spring into recycling

by CAITLIN SOPHIA WIGNEY, Gazette Student News Reporter on November 01, 2013 10:30 AM

ARMAGH — At United Elementary School, the students and staff are helping out Mother Nature; they take part in a club called the Eco Team.

Members of the Eco Team recycle, maintain the school trail and take part in ecological lessons. Ron Ofman and Valerie Gapshes are the club’s advisers, and all of the student body is involved in one way or another in this club.

For example, fifth-graders elect their peers to offices including president and secretary, and they are in charge of the meetings that are held. Kristina Chero, a sixth-grader, also participates in the club.

“We all have to put our milk cartons and plastic bottles in the green bin for recycling, so in that way everybody helps,” Chero said.

The Eco Team started four years ago with the idea to help sustain the school grounds and to restore the school trail.

The trail was created by previous United staff who hoped to use it as an educational tool. It hadn’t been used much recently, so the Eco Team set out to revitalize it.

This effort has turned into so much more with students gaining responsibility while assisting the community as a result.

For instance, the Eco Team formed a partnership with a recycling company called Terracycle (www.Terracycle. com) which collects recycled materials and turns them into new products. Terracycle reimburses the Eco Team for every item recycled, and, in turn, the Eco Team uses the funds to further help their projects; the money pays for multiple opportunities, including student field trips, seedlings and trail maintenance supplies.

It also pays for the fee that comes with paper recycling; because there are no companies in the area that recycle paper, United pays to have the paper that the Eco Team recycles sent out for processing.

The elementary also upcycles, meaning they collect used items (such as shoes, shampoo bottles, plastic tubs, etc.) and someone else turns them into new, useful products.

These products can then be used to help needy people both in and out of the community.

The Eco Team’s mission is to “reduce waste and to increase recycling efforts,” according to Ofman, so, all in all, the Eco Team is a great way to both help out the environment and give the students responsibility.

When asked about the club, Chero replied, “They seem to do fun stuff. The other day they came around with a list of things we can bring in to help.”

The group meets when needed, usually about once a month, to discuss opportunities and help others to get involved with the collection.

The Eco Team collects items such as tape dispensers, ink cartridges, old cellphones, pairs of shoes, Frito Lay product wrappers and drink pouches, among other things, for the upcycling process.

To see a full list, or to help donate, contact Ofman at rofman@unit or Gapshes at

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