Sullivan County Democrat, Callicoon, New York; January 15, 2010
By Dan Hust
Sullivan County Recycling Coordinator Bill Cutler told legislators recently he has good reason to be excited.
Out of thousands of possible candidates, the Eldred and Liberty central school districts were selected to receive specialized recycling help from the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).
According to NERC Projects Manager Athena Lee Bradley, the districts are special in another way: both have more than the high school participating.
Two high schools in Connecticut, two in New Jersey and two in Delaware are part of this new NERC venture. But in Liberty, the middle school will also be part of the program and, in Eldred, the Mackenzie Elementary School in Glen Spey will join the junior/senior high school in the activities.
“The project, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Services Solid Waste Management Grant Program, is to work with rural schools to increase solid waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and toxic product use reduction,” said Bradley.
Both Liberty and Eldred already recycle, but NERC is pairing the $40,000 USDA grant with $20,000 of its own money to help the districts find new ways of dealing with their waste.
“I’m trying to do projects with them that won’t cost them any funding,” explained Bradley, who wrote the grant.
“Both Eldred and Liberty are already doing great things,” she acknowledged, but her hope is to streamline their recycling operations and introduce innovations such as worm composting.
“This is tremendous,” affirmed Cutler, who has been working with NERC for the past two years to land this program locally.
He joined Bradley at Eldred last month to conduct a waste audit, and also at Liberty to discuss a waste assessment with faculty and staff.
Neither district is getting any money out of this program, nor are they intending to use it to save money – though that could be a result.
“For us, it was just someone to give us some guidance to do something we’d been wanting to do,” explained Eldred Superintendent Berneice Brownell.
Liberty’s director of student services, Eileen Conway-Whitaker, added that students will learn how to apply educational concepts to the real world.
“This is going to be very exciting for them,” she said, predicting this may spur some to one day seek jobs in the recycling market. “I think recycling is going to be a big thing in the future for these students.”
The exact activities of the program are still being worked out and are expected to commence later in the school year. Bradley said it will run through September and feature at least two more trips from her Vermont headquarters to the schools.
“It’s a great opportunity and wonderful to visit these rural schools,” she acknowledged.
“It’s a wonderful educational tool,” Brownell added. “I think it will save us all something in the long run.”
“We only have one earth,” agreed Conway-Whitaker, “and I think we should be taking better care of it.”