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Calhoun piloting program to greatly expand recycling

Calhoun Middle School eighth-grader Miguel Mederos empties the remains of his milk container
Calhoun Middle School students are already accustomed to recycling paper and cardboard materials, and this year they’re expanding their reach to include even more materials.

As part of a new initiative from the city of Denton, Calhoun students are piloting carton recycling, which is in the planning stages for other Denton ISD schools. Through the program, students can now recycle items such as milk cartons when they’re finished eating, saving a large amount of recyclable materials from going to a landfill.

Principal Paul Martinez said his school’s success with its recycling programs boils down to a positive environment that fosters success.

“I think our adults sort of set the norms, and the kids really followed their lead and ran with it,” he said. “A big part of this is we’re an International Baccalaureate school, so we encourage our students to think globally about how they impact their environment. These kinds of programs aren’t hard to instill with those kinds of ideals.”

To prepare for the city’s new recycling initiative, Calhoun didn’t have to do much – recycling receptacles were already in place, and the main area cartons were used was in the cafeteria. After trying it out the first day of school, however, the school decided to add a strainer to prevent straws from being placed in the wrong area when liquid cartons were emptied.

Overall recycling at the school has increased by about 20 percent

Beyond that modification, however, the school hasn’t run into any problems with the program. Zarian Presley Boone, a Calhoun sixth-grader, said the process is simple, and students who don’t know how to recycle their items are guided by school staff members.

“There’s always someone there telling us what to do [near the recycling containers and trash cans],” she said. “So if you have a carton on your tray, they’ll let you know you have to pour it out and recycle it.”

Lloyd Spence, head custodian at Calhoun, said students became accustomed to the process “within a few days” and now need little guidance regarding where to place their recyclables. The addition of carton products increased the school’s overall recycling by about 20 percent, Spence estimated – an increase so big that now the city picks up recycled materials from the school twice a week instead of once a week.

When asked how the program is beneficial, Zarian echoed Principal Martinez’s sentiments and said recycling improves the lives of others across the world.

“It’s important because we don’t want the landfills to take up too much space,” Zarian explained. “We don’t want to have a nasty planet.”