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Madison fourth graders get recycling lesson


MASSENA - Recycling is not just an adult responsibility. Everyone, young and old, needs to play a part in reducing waste and protecting the world’s limited resources.

That was the message Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Recycling & Solid Waste Educator Sayre Stevens recently shared with Madison Elementary fourth graders.

His lesson tied in well with the early February start of Massena Central School’s new single stream recycling program and the village of Massena’s recycling requirements.

“Remember students, recycling is the law – so we want to make sure we are recycling more,” fourth-grade teacher Michele Porcaro said.

Mr. Stevens laid out a table filled with recyclables and non-recyclables to illustrate what is recyclable and what needs to be thrown in the garbage.

He explained that one major category of recyclables is plastic. There are different types of plastic, some are recyclable and others are not. People can easily identify recyclable plastics by the green “Chasing Arrows” printed on the labels or the containers. He said all recyclable plastic items must be emptied and rinsed.

“Why do recyclables have to be clean?” asked fourth-grade teacher William Webb.

“It’s really for the health and safety for the people that work at the recycling plants. If we had a lot of food waste stuck to all the items it would attract insects, rodents and could carry disease so it’s really helpful if it’s cleaned because it’s going to be reproduced by people or by machine that people operate,” Mr. Stevens said.

A second category of recyclables is electronics. They are often valuable; or in the case of batteries, they may contain toxic chemicals.

“Gold, platinum, silver and copper – some of those precious metals are inside our electronics. So if we throw them out, they will be in the landfill forever. Instead, we can recover those materials and reuse them to make new materials,” said Mr. Stevens.

Madison’s fourth grade recycles electronics as a fundraiser. Students collect items such as old cell phones, DVDs and printer cartridges that they redeem once a month for cash from a recycling company.

But what happens to recyclables? As examples, Mr. Stevens explained that plastic bags can become plastic lumber and recycled glass can be crushed and used in roadways.

“The presentation taught me what to recycle and what not to recycle. I don’t recycle at home, but I’m going to tell mom and dad to start,” said fourth grader Patrick Barclay.

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