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Education


A Message from Riccardo Giani, Interim Director of Planning & Zoning for the City of Natchez:


The City of Natchez has been a grantee of a grant funded by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to expand recycling efforts in southwest Mississippi. This grant covers not only the residents of Natchez, but also the residents of Wilkinson County and Brookhaven. Funding from the grant has given Southwest Mississippi fiscal flexibility to purchase equipment and infrastructure dedicated to expand recycling in Southwest Mississippi. Locally, the City of Natchez has a centrally located recycling compactor to support commercial and residential recycling, in addition to the once a week pick up by WastePro. The collection costs are currently being paid for by the grant moneys, however this is not a long term solution. The MDEQ funds programs, like ours, with the goal of creating a self-sustaining, autonomous recycling program. To accomplish this goal, the participants of the grant have allocated resources to advertise, educate and distribute information to expand the program.

 

Recycling programs have become integral to our growing society on a local and national scale. With growing populations and limited space for landfills, managing our waste and consumption is a way to maintain economic efficiency for the future. The different processes of recycling, and the variety of materials that can be recycled, provides a sustainable alternative to extracting new material to create new products that otherwise would be destined for a landfill. When a large scale recycling program is self-sustaining, it is able to employ a sufficient number of local employees who sort and sell the recyclable material to companies who specialize in recycling, down-cycling, or up-cycling. When a material is recycled, it retains the same quality as it did in its previous “life,” such as an aluminum can or a plastic bottle. During the process of down-cycling, the material is made into a product of lesser quality and functionality, however the product is still very useful because it has been repurposed (Old clothes, into cleaning rags). Upcycling is the process in which materials are used to create new, higher quality, with a higher value (vinyl record into a clock).

 

To expand and enhance the recycling program to a point where it can self-sustain requires advertising, education, and outreach to the community on the behalf of the participants of the grant. Currently, the collection costs are being paid for by the grant moneys received by MSDEQ. For the future, the City of Natchez and other grantees hope to create enough economic return so the recycling program can fund itself by selling recyclable material to the appropriate companies. With an increase in recycling, residents and business will notice a considerable drop in collection fees for landfill destined trash, assuming trash collection is based on amount collected. The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it. The percentages of materials that are recyclable are considerably lower in areas lacking recycling infrastructure. With the average person generating 4 pounds of trash per day and 1.5 tons per year, means we should be able to recycle 3 of those 4 pounds of trash and cut our annual landfill destined trash by over 70%. Developing a recycling program, in your house, office, classroom, school, or business alone can greatly reduce the environmental impact that landfills generate.

 

Implementing recycling curriculum into the local school districts is a strategy being used by school districts around the country. An approach that includes all grade levels and all members of the faculty will ensure total participation in the recycling program. A “top-to-bottom” and a “bottom-to-top” perspective is the most plausible strategy when analyzing a school’s current recycling capabilities. From the principal who influences the teachers to enhance the student’s learning, to the custodians who manage the school’s waste. The most challenging part of this system is establishing a system of incentives that continually motivate principals, teachers, custodians and other faculty members to recycle. The City of Natchez is open to providing educational and incentive resources to the schools, however these incentives would have to be based on a non-monetary or limited monetary rewards system. Every step of the implementation process can be open to interpretation; each school is unique in its operation, so there is a lot of flexibility in terms of developing a rewards system for each school’s self-sustaining recycling program.

 

The goal of the education and outreach program is to implement the curriculum where it can be effective in teaching the students recycling etiquette and to be environmentally conscience, but not to interrupt the regular lesson plans. An incorporation of the recycling curriculum as it pertains to each subject can be a useful strategy in creating a link between recycling and regular lesson plans. For example, the purpose of recycling is to conserve materials, so a geography or biology lesson could discuss the physical and chemical properties of each material, where they are located on the globe, and what has to be done to extract/manufacture/recycle these materials. Another example is to measure how much each class is recycling, taking weekly or biweekly measurements of the weight of materials being recycled. This is an effective way to introduce kids to compiling data and drawing conclusions on the data. Lastly, for a writing project, students could reflect on what recycling means to them or draft a proposal to expand or enhance the classrooms or school’s recycling system. If one or all of these processes are implemented in the classroom, it would benefit the program because the students would be rewarded for participation and incentivized to excel in these assignments.

 

Each school can develop its own unique rewards program, if one is not already set into place, to incentivize all faculty and students to recycle. There are many ways to incentivize students, such as extra recess or lunch time, field trips, pizza parties, movie days, etc. Each of these rewards can be an additional opportunity to educate students about the benefits of recycling. A few ideas would be a “contest” on which student lead group could clean the school yard the fastest, during extra recess time. A pizza party could be an opportunity to teach the students about how recyclable materials can get contaminated, such as the grease soaking into the cardboard. An educational film could be shown based on an environmental issue, with a short writing assignment summarizing the student’s impression of the video. In addition, these rewards can be a result of the classroom that recycles the most, the most improved classroom, the class with the most students that were commended for their recycling efforts, and so on.

 

An expansion of the recycling efforts in local schools can be a strong catalyst in enhancing the educational atmosphere of the school. With recycling curriculum being supplementary to the main lesson plan, the student can grow to become a well-educated person and an exemplary champion of their environment. The City of Natchez is more than willing to offer assistance to any member of the faculty in terms of developing and implementing curriculum into the classroom and establishing a recycling program within the schools. I strongly encourage you to contact myself, Riccardo Giani, if any questions, comments or concerns arise. One earth, one people, one responsibility, thank you for reading!

 

Online Resources:

Earth911.com 

http://www.recommunity.com/

 




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