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Leadership Students

Leadership students are working around a long table to craft magnets from ceramic tile samples. Several students are holding up their completed magnets, which have a cutout of the state of Iowa on them.

IWE GOES BACK TO SCHOOL, by Julie Plummer, Area 5

The Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE) has been providing reuse and recycling assistance in Iowa since 1991. For the first twenty years, the program focused extensively on assisting Iowa manufacturers by finding reuse and recycling opportunities for industrial by-products and wastes. In recent years, as Iowa’s awareness and infrastructure for sustainable management of solid waste has grown, the program has broadened outreach to include free and confidential assistance to many other types of waste generators - commercial businesses, large office buildings, restaurants, community groups, hospitals, institutions, municipalities, and schools. No matter the type of business or type and amount of waste, the IWE now provides expert assistance with smart waste management strategies!

The Iowa Waste Exchange is currently in the second year of a special project targeting assistance to Iowa’s K-12 schools. After taking time to better understand what schools need and want when it comes to recycling, the IWE is now focused on providing assistance to schools in the form of projects that range from conducting waste sorts on food from the school lunch program, to finding cost-effective recycling markets for the recyclable materials, to speaking to students in the classroom about the importance of recycling. All of these projects aim to reduce barriers and increase recycling successes, allowing Iowa schools to save money and operate more sustainably.

As an example: During the fall of 2019, Iowa Waste Exchange Area 5 Resource Specialist Julie Plummer was called on by Bennett Community School in Bennett, IA (Cedar County) to assist in increasing recycling at the pre K through 6th grade elementary school. Specifically, School Counselor Joel Herman was looking for a way to obtain dedicated recycling bins that could be placed in every classroom. His 6th grade Leadership students are responsible for collecting and sorting the recyclables from the school each week, and Joel felt that dedicated, student-decorated bins would help to increase the amount of recyclables collected. He also invited Julie to meet his students and speak to them about recycling.

Julie arrived at the school with twenty used recycling tubs that IWE Area 2 Resource Specialist Shelly Codner had collected from an Iowa Department of Natural Resources building during remodeling activities there. These bins are now seeing new use at Bennett School! Joel Herman observes that the recycling program at Bennett School is going very well, with students and staff now placing a wider variety of recyclable items in the bins.

Julie’s recycling talk to the 6th grade Leadership class included some hands-on activities with recycled materials. The enthusiastic students asked many great questions as they constructed magnets from recycled tile samples and filled zippered pouches made from recycled plastic with recycled pens provided by IWE Area 4 Resource Specialist Alicia Presto. Each student completed two projects. Julie challenged the future leaders to keep one project for themselves, and pass the other on to a younger student as they explained the Bennett School’s recycling program and talked to them about the importance of recycling.

IWE Success Stories
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