Cash motivates school, community to recycle

Canton High School collects recyclables in hopes of winning cash prize

Students at Canton High School participate in "Recycle Rally".

CANTON, MS (WLBT) - Two years after Madison County began cutting-back its recycling efforts, students in Canton are doing the opposite. They’re taking their recyclables to school.

Alashija Johnson is the student body president at Canton High School. She’s also now a competitive recycler.

“We are very, very competitive,” she says of her classmates, “so when they heard that it was a competition, they were all aboard for it.”

“It” is a recycling program affiliated with the PepsiCo Recycle Rally, where students across the country compete to see which school can recycle the most. The winning school gets $10,000.

Joy Dodson, the woman behind Canton’s “Keep American Beautiful” certification, got the recycling program going in September after proposing the idea to Canton High School’s principal, Dr. Pamela Self.

“I was excited,” Dr. Self says, “because I want my students to understand that they can make a difference. So when she asked me about the recycling event or initiative, I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes, let’s do it!'"

So for starters, Dodson got bins for the school to place all over campus. Johnson addressed the student body to encourage participation, and she says it quickly caught on.

“They’ll see a recycling bin and will eat a bag of chips and say. ‘Oh, we can put this in the recycling bin.’ So it has changed character throughout the school as well as their views on how to keep the school clean,” Johnson says.

In the cafeteria, lunch workers now separate the garbage from the recyclables as students turn-in their trays.

“We break down, like if it’s a hamburger or milk, we put the plastic where it goes, and the garbage goes in the garbage can,” says cafeteria worker Lee McDaniel, adding, “We want to win that $10,000 prize!”

It’s all piled into cans out back, and it adds up fast, especially as the kids bring recyclables from home, and churches bring theirs -- all wanting to help the school in the competition.

Dodson says she borrows her husband’s truck once week and backs it up to load the recyclables. She then hauls them off to the city’s recycling bins after measuring the load and reporting it to PepsiCo, in hopes of winning the cash prize for the school. But both she and the principal are looking beyond that.

“I think that’s what gets us in the door," Dodson says. “Everybody loves a competition, and there’s certainly money involved, which is even cooler, but... when you see those (bags) that are full of plastic that would have been going to a landfill somewhere and taking many years to decompose -- I’m hoping that it has reached them at a deeper level.”

“For my students to take the time to remind us as the adults and their classmates that, ‘Oh, no, don’t throw that in the trash can. That’s paper. Let’s put it in one of our recycling bins,’ and for our community... they know that these students can make a difference in the world,” says Dr. Self.

“Everybody knows recycling and reusing is important,” Dodson says. “I just want the kids to be able to catch on to how easy it is to make a big difference.”

For more information on the PepsiCo Recycle Rally, click here.

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