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Reusing, not recycling, at heart of Rockwood middle school grant

By: Bonnie Krueger

Students using the new water station at LaSalle Middle, which encourages reusing bottle bottles, not recycling them.

Four Rockwood middle schools are taking part in a St. Louis County Health Department grant project that will reduce the number of plastic water bottles students recycle.

Crestview, Selvidge, Rockwood Valley and LaSalle Springs have had some drinking fountains replaced with a combination of drinking fountain and water refilling stations. Students and staff can use their personal bottles instead of new, plastic water bottles.

Rockwood Maintenance and Grounds Coordinator Bill Branson said, “The goal is to eliminate students’ bringing in capped plastic water bottles, which have to be recycled. This helps keep plastic bottles and caps out of landfills.”

Schools also purchased reusable water bottles for students, which they can keep with them. Meanwhile, the water-filling stations are equipped with counters, which track how many times students refill bottles. Each one represents a water bottle that is not going to have to be recycled.

Students are keeping track of how many plastic water bottles they made unnecessary. They are also seeing how many plastic water bottle caps they can collect.

Branson said, “I think it’s good that our students can learn some conservation efforts and see practical applications to some of the efforts that exist.”

LaSalle Springs administrators also will be distributing reusable bottles to students.

“I hope they realize we can all save the world,” said LaSalle Springs Principal Debbie Brandt. “We are hoping they will use this as an opportunity to learn more about our environment and recycle, reduce, reuse.”

Sixth-grade student Sydney Bailey said, “It’s good that we’re collecting so many bottle caps, but bad that they’re even out there. For the environment, we want to see how many caps we throw away and how we can reduce that.”

“Students are really getting into this, and we’re all learning about what happens to plastic water bottles,” said another sixth-grade student, Aaliyah Barsh. “We hope to reduce, instead of recycle.”

LaSalle Springs teacher and science department chair Mary Anne Moosmann said the caps collecting is not a contest, just a motivational activity. Just this semester, LaSalle students have collected more than 12,200 plastic water bottle caps.

“The project goal is to make students aware of how many single-serving plastic water bottles they were using,” she said. “We’re hoping to get rid of those single-serving bottles. I hope kids will reuse over and over, and help create something other than a throw-away society.”

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