Starting a Recycling Program: Payday

Commenting about my recycling post, Ricochet said, “I ran a recycle club at the middle school – you can get kids to help pick up the paper from the teachers. I paid in candy.”

I want to pay my students for their efforts too. My original idea was to start a trash-for-cash business; my students would receive actual money for their efforts. After some preliminary investigation in our area, I doubt that’s possible.

Still, I want my students to learn the ins and outs of starting a business, and they need to be compensated for their work. Candy, however, is out of the question. For one thing, I’d have to buy the stuff out of my meager paycheck. For another thing, my students already get too much candy—I see those jaws working furiously every class period—and many of my students are overweight. So, no candy.

But Ricochet’s comment made me think back to the year I taught in a private school. That was the year I started a classroom economy. Every student had a job (janitor, librarian, class historian, etc.) and every student was paid for his or her work in classroom cash, which the kids elected to call “$tones.” Students could earn extra $tones by taking on more responsibilities. They could also lose $tones by being fined for talking without permission or creating other disturbances in the classroom or for failing to do their homework.

About every six weeks, the kids brought toys and books and crafts they no longer wanted and we held an auction. Students used their $tones to buy things that caught their fancy. Everyone had a good time.

Which brings me to my current school. Why not pay my middle-school recyclers in classroom cash and hold an auction every six weeks? Everyone loves to get paid for her efforts, and everyone loves a bargain.

I think it would be a win-win situation. The environment would win because we’d help to relieve its indigestion caused by a plethora of paper in the landfill, and the students would win because they would be learning invaluable life skills.

Day by day my idea for a recycling program/business at our middle school grows and matures. I can hardly wait for summer to be over so that I can finally begin to implement it.

Posted on June 26, 2009, in recycling. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. sounds like a great idea! Mrs. Bluebird’s school has something like this, too — I think on a grander scale, from what I’ve read, and not for recycling. Maybe some local (and I use the term loosely) businesses would donate a few items, too.

  2. An alternative. Our Student Council is in charge of picking up recycling each Friday after announcements and taking it to the recycling bins outside. When we get our check – They report back to their classrooms amounts and options for spending it.

    Some years they buy for the Butterfly garden, sometimes they buy equipment that can be checked out of the gym for use at recess.

    They get to both see a reward for their efforts and give back to the school community.

    Our Garden club is going to have a farmer’s market with the produce from the new greenhouse garden.

  3. I was flip – they would have done it for nothing.

    I only had a few – it was the year I was recovering from broken bones so I was late starting the club, but I had half a dozen faithful who’d meet with me once a month and collect all the paper for the recycler to pick up.

    Had I started it earlier, we would have done something with the national river cleanup the third week in September. Don’t know if you have a river or lake near you that you could do as a field trip.

    I wanted to do can recycling also as it is done around here at many of the schools, but the boss was afraid there would be wasps and we couldn’t have that.

    At my current school, it is pointless to ask about either paper or cans (around here the recyclers have modified to include magazines, phone books and flattened boxes). The school itself recycles ink cartridges. (We are discouraged from starting any new clubs. Someone does recycling if you haul the paper to them. It is easier to haul it to the elementary school my children attended in the past. So, it still benefits someone.)

    The first thing I would do (since you are so isolated) is see if you can find someone willing to pick any of that up. I do like the idea of using it to subsidize the local soup kitchen. That is an important lesson also. Kids are not so greedy that they have to be rewarded for everything they do and are usually able to see the big picture.

    My school wasn’t big on candy so when I gave them gum for work, it was a real treat. And, yes, I paid for it.

    Another middle school near here does a garden during the year. A teacher does the design and encourages the tilling, then various classes plant and harvest things. Don’t know what your weather is like. Purple martin gourds are not edible but grow a neat plant that can be made into birdhouses.

    Another idea: see if there are Boy Scout troops or Girl Scout troops or other youth groups. A lot of these have to do service and are looking for 1) an adult to encourage them and 2) an idea. You have the idea and the enthusiasm. I see great things!

  4. The money generated by our recycling effort help to pay for landscaping at the school.

  5. Sounds like a great idea. You could also throw in a few classroom coupons for auction – a homework pass, extra time in the library, that sort of thing. (My kids fight over the chance to take the projector back to the IT guys – that coupon would be the hands down winner every time!)

  6. The recycling idea sounds great! I have often thought of that, as the school I taught at did not have a program. All that PAPER being thrown away…ugh!

    You are brave to do a classroom currency…I’ve tried it twice and hated it both times, LOL! I think the kids were too young. Or I am too unorganized. Or a combination of both…

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