The Purdy Recycling Project is a full-scale school and community program located in Purdy, Missouri. Students do the work and participate fully in the decision-making and visioning as our program continues to build upon its success. Having overcome many obstacles, the program is now more than four years old and has its own facility on this K-12 school campus, where students process three kinds of paper, three types of metals, cardboard and three types of plastic plus Styrofoam, all according to industry standards that allow them run a profitable business.
This program was founded upon several key assumptions: 1) that students are capable of doing more than simply putting their materials in the right recycling bin 2) that trash has valuable materials that can be salvaged and 3) that fundraising is hard on a small town with lots of school clubs. From that viewpoint we have built a program which combines environmental education, community service and good business practices, to a point where we are nearly self-sustaining. What we did not know in the beginning was how passionate our students would become about this work, especially when we began to include middle school and elementary students in the effort. Nor did we truly understand how the fun of industrial recycling would even sweep up adults who at first were only onlookers. This is recycling science, and it has helped us recycle nearly 300,000 pounds of materials so far.
Even though we are still limited in our processing ability by lack of all the machinery we need, we have enough technology to bale cardboard and plastic and to be the only recycling center in Missouri to accept used oil filters. We crush them to extract the remaining oil, sell the crushed metal for scrap steel and use the oil to run the waste oil furnace which heats our building. Our service has made given our area one of the highest rates of oil filter recycling in the nation and now keeps more than a ton of oil filters out of landfills each month. Kids love having the opportunity to work with large quantities of recyclables and trade them for money.
It is our hope that other schools around the country will soon recognize that they too can duplicate what we have done, and to that end we have published Bringing it Back Around, a how-to manual for starting a school or community recycling program. Schools do not face the same economic limitations of municipalities which must pay their workers, and a huge volunteer force waits to show adults how much passion, energy and young skill is available to handle planetary problems.
For more information about the Purdy Recycling Project, please visit our website at http://spanish.purdy.k12.mo.us.