PLEASANTVILLE — Despite a week of interrupted collections due to Hurricane Sandy, the Pleasantville Middle School collected the most recyclable materials in the state during a competition that ended in late 2012.
The school, which has an enrollment of 832, collected more than 38,000 pounds of material, ranking first in the state and second in the country in the Keep America Beautiful Recycle Bowl. The school finished one pound per capita from the first-place winners nationally. First place went to Taylor Primary school in Kokomo, Ind., where students recycled 47 pounds of material per person. The Pleasantville students collected 46.6 pounds per person.
City officials lined up in the school’s auditorium Thursday to congratulate the students.
A group of 12 gifted-and-talented students began the recycling project two years ago when they were in sixth grade. They are now in eighth grade, and the project has grown to be a school-wide endeavor.
The students raised funds from Box Tops for Education and bake sales to buy 100 small recycle bins for each classroom, said gifted-and-talented teacher Liza Levitt-Tighe. The students then went around three times per week, one day per floor in the three-story building, during the 42-minute gifted-and-talented class period.
“They used to call us the trash people,” said 13-year-old Kira Strider.
The students said at first there was resistance and teasing from their peers — and still is to some extent today — but, overall, the student body has learned how to recycle properly. They even encouraged their parents at home, despite some apprehension. Valeria Juarez, 13, said her parents once asked her why she was digging through the trash.
But the lesson learned is the significant impact recycling has on the whole world, said Ismael Rodriguez, 13.
The Atlantic County Utilities Authority, which develops waste management strategies, reported that 20 Atlantic County schools participated in the program. The more than 18,200 students recycled 100,800 pounds of material during the contest.
About 1,500 schools participated nationwide in a competition that is in its second year.
“We know you missed school for a week” so that Red Cross could use the school buildings to host Hurricane Sandy victims, but “that didn’t stop Pleasantville,” said Richard Dovey, president of ACUA.
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