By LUCIA C. DRAKE

Staff Writer

The Egg Harbor City Community School is serious about trash and recycling. And its efforts have paid off.

The fourth- through eighth-grade facility off Havana Avenue has been named the New Jersey champion in the 2013 Recycle Bowl, sponsored by Nestle’s Keep America Beautiful campaign.

It is the school’s rookie year competing in the competition, Principal Jack Griffith said.

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” Griffith said recently. “Everyone really made an effort, and you can see the difference throughout the whole school in how we think about trash.”

The competition, which took place between Oct. 19 and Nov. 15, involved participating schools recycling as much as possible within that span. When the final results were tallied, Egg Harbor City Community School collected 12,751 pounds of recyclables. Put another way, that’s 48.67 pounds of waste per child, school administrators said.

The school will receive $1,000 in prize money for winning the top spot.

Keep America Beautiful’s Recycle Bowl competition for elementary, middle and high school students is in its third year and was created in partnership with the Nestle’s corporation.

Of the 26 New Jersey schools registered in the competition, 23 were Atlantic County schools, according to Maria Mento, the executive vice president and Chief Finance Officer of the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, which encouraged schools to participate in the competition.

Egg Harbor City also can boast about having the third-best recycling school in the state.

The Charles L. Spragg School, which houses the district’s pre-kindergarten through third-grade students on Buffalo Avenue, recycled 19.47 pounds of waste per student, according to official results posted by the ACUA.

Rounding out the top winners in Atlantic County was Egg Harbor Township High School, which was named “most improved” of all of the participating schools across the country by increasing its recycling rate by 190 percent.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our school leaders,” Mento said in a prepared release. “The effort and leadership demonstrated by these schools is to be commended. We applaud each school, and we’re anxious to share their successes with the broader community with the hope that it will inspire other schools to reinvigorate or initiate their own recycling programs.”

Griffith said the entire school got behind the recycling effort and credits the student population, the teaching staff and the support staff for its success. Milk cartons, cereal cartons, yogurt containers, cans, bottles, cardboard and paper from the school’s breakfast and lunch programs were meticulously separated from regular trash. So, too, was all paper product waste from classrooms.

Lisa Jiampetti, the coordinator for the school’s 21st Century Community Learning Center, custodian Jen Whisner and the entire custodial staff, both dayside and nightside, were instrumental in helping the school fine-tune its recycling program and continue to keep it on target, he said.

In fact, the school’s recycling effort has been so successful that it has created another type of problem, he said. The school recycles so much that it now has a storage problem.

There is not enough space on school grounds to locate one of those huge metal bins, so the Atlantic County Utilities Authority has been supplying the school with wheeled containers, he said. At last count, there were seven large containers and several smaller ones in the parking lot next to the regular trash bins that were overflowing with recycling materials.

While he describes it as “a good problem to have,” Griffith said it doesn’t create an aesthetically pleasing view. He said he would like to try to use the prize money to purchase a privacy fence to put around the recycling bin area.

Jiampetti, who also happens to be the mayor of Egg Harbor City, said she supports recycling measures throughout the city because recycling saves taxpayers money.

“Just this year, we have increased our municipal recycling to 50 percent, which saved Egg Harbor City taxpayers more than $4,000 in trash disposal fees,” she said.

Recycling in the schools pays off in many ways, she said, not only financially but in setting an example for younger generations.

One of the purposes of the Recycle Bowl is to teach students about environmental responsibility. According to contest sponsors, if all students in America recycled at the rate of this year’s Recycle Bowl competitors, approximately 3.2 million tons of material would be diverted annually from landfills. That would be the weight of 302,033 school buses.

Last year, more than 1,500 schools around the country, representing nearly one million students, participated in the event. Program sponsors stated that getting schools enrolled in the program is crucial because statistics show that schools that participate in the Recycle Bowl competition generally recycle 10 percent more than schools that don’t participate.

A recognition ceremony is planned for all Atlantic County Recycle Bowl participants during ACUA’s Earth Day celebration on April 27.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295

Atlantic County Recycle Bowl by the numbers

23 of 26 New Jersey schools registered were Atlantic County schools

17,516 Atlantic County students participated in the competition

136,007 pounds of recyclables were recovered

7.76 pounds of material on average was collected per person during the four weeks of the competition