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County promotes waste reduction

Students Greg Nelson and Cherese Taggart dive into teacher Maribeth Crowe’s garbage bag to pull out packaging that can be recycled. - Gayle Saran
Students Greg Nelson and Cherese Taggart dive into teacher Maribeth Crowe’s garbage bag to pull out packaging that can be recycled.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

Maribeth Crowe knows all about solid waste and pollution and how to reduce both.

The Freeland woman is an education outreach specialist for Island County’s Solid Waste department and she is on a mission to get kids to throw away fewer things. Those kids, she said, are the key to change.

“Teaching kids about the three R’s — reduce, reuse and recycle — is a good way to raise the consciousness of those whose families aren’t recycling yet,” said Crowe.

Crowe developed a multi-level, age-appropriate curriculum to present to South Whidbey youth in kindergarten through 12th grade. She said she wants students to understand the relationship between municipal solid waste, consumer products and packaging, natural resources and ecosystems.

Her programs are designed to tie in with students’ other classes, such as reading, math, sciences, social studies, economics and government.

Crowe’s curriculum for kindergarten students and children through fifth grade has three units — Worm Bins by Composting, Recycle Relay and Look in Your Lunch Box. Students grades 6 through 12 get units called Household Hazards, Learning to Read Labels, Smart Shopping and Dumpster Dive — which is a waste audit of one garbage can. Another unit, Car Crazy, teaches students about the solid waste and pollution created by automobiles.

“Part of my challenge was to create interesting and interactive programs that are age appropriate,” Crowe said.

Crowe was in Lin Geronimi’s fifth grade class at the intermediate school Thursday teaching about the relationship between natural resources, solid waste and energy. About half the class admitted that they did not recycle. Crowe said that is about standard based on her experience with other classes.

She taught Geronimi’s class the new three R’s with examples of things that can be recycled or repaired and how to reduce the amount of waste by buying bulk packaging made out of recycled materials. By the time she was finished with her presentation, she had given the students something to think about.

Some students said they would think about recycling in the future. They also said they will tell their families how to recycle as well.

Jordan Knight said his family recycles glass and newspapers. After Crowe’s class, he might be willing to recycle paper and plastics.

Trapper Rawls thought Crowe’s demonstration was “really cool and my grandmother recycles.”

The recycling information was old hat to one student. Kaeli Barker said her daily chore is to take the recycling out of her house to bins.

“We recycle about three times a month, especially glass, cans and newspapers,” she said.

The education outreach program is part of the county’s comprehensive solid waste plan. Cost of the program is about $15,000 and it comes from solid waste disposal fees.

“This program has top priority and is one of the ways we can work toward waste reduction,” said Jerry Mingo, coordinator of recycling and hazardous waste for the county.

The program first began in 1990 and ran until 1997. The program took a hiatus when it seemed that students on the island had a thorough understanding of recycling.

“We were told it was getting repetitive and students were getting the same information over and over as they progressed through the schools,” Mingo said.

Previously, the program involved 200-250 classrooms each year and about 6,250 students.

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