Landfill waste foiled by new Fraser Valley Elementary ‘upcycling’ project |

Landfill waste foiled by new Fraser Valley Elementary ‘upcycling’ project

Cyndi McCoy
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado
Courtesy photoVarious items are made from recycled juice pouch foil.

Once Nicole Robinson heard about it on TV, she said she couldn’t simply stand by and do nothing with her new knowledge.

“It was just one of those things,” she said. “It’s my way to do my part ” anytime that you can do a task that’s easy to implement and multiple goods come out of it,” how can you turn that down? she asked.

Robinson was inspired by a Today Show program about an eco-friendly innovator. Now Fraser Valley Elementary is one of almost 14,500 schools that have kick-started a new “upcycling” program.

The Drink Pouch Brigade, a branch of the TerraCycle program started by the same co-founders (Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer), recycles juice pouches and turns them into products and cash.

“The kids are super excited about it, so it’s kind of a cool program,” said Penny Suazo, FVE principal.

With full support from the staff and students at the school, Robinson sent out e-mails and explained the way the program worked during the lunch periods. She implemented the new “upcycling” program and picked up the first bin March 30, with 140 collected in just the first two days.

With children dropping them off after snack and lunch time, as well as bringing them in from home, she estimates the school collects well over 200 a week.

“You can’t believe how many of these things kids generate,” she said.

She could only see it as a win-win situation. Although all drink pouches are accepted, TerraCycle reimburses participants up to two cents per juice pouch from Capri Sun, Honest Kids, and Kool Aid brands. Participants can also take it to different levels, with yogurt containers, cookie and energy bar wrappers, and chip and cereal bags also acceptable from designated companies.

The funds can be used to benefit any nonprofit or charity. As a Parent Advisory Committee member for her second year, Robinson chose the FVE PAC as her recipient.

One of the projects she envisions benefiting from the proceeds is the addition of a greenhouse to the school. It could be used to nurture a memorial garden the PAC wants to put in to honor FVE’s former principal Reba Ferguson who died in a car accident a year ago.

The foil-like material the pouches are made of isn’t biodegradable, so those recycled also don’t end up in the landfill. This is a big deal for Grand County, she points out, which currently struggles with limited landfill space, as well as local recycling programs that can’t seem to stay afloat.

Robinson said the students are so into the new program they can’t wait to report their contributions when they see her. Paige Romero even told her she’d talk to her dad about starting a collection bin at New Frontier, where she said many of the workers drink juice pouches too.

“It was so sweet,” beamed Robinson. “The program was embraced far better than I ever thought it would be.”

To keep the future generation interested, Robinson has also been brainstorming several fun projects. One of her ideas is a school spirit class collection contest.

TerraCycle even sends the packing material, and postage is paid. Robinson and her daughters Cassidy (3) and Kayla Davis (7) help count out and bunch them into packs of 100.

Once TerraCycle receives them, the pouches are turned into things like backpacks, lunch boxes, tote bags, folders, pencil holders, and the list goes on from there.

If she can get just one other organization or school to join the effort, Robinson feels she’ll have done her job. All it takes, she said, is someone who cares enough to “drive the train.”

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