Baltimore City schools hit 100 percent in recycling initiative

All Baltimore schools are now recycling, officials announced Thursday, an initiative that generated 27 tons of recycled material in its first month.

Until the systemwide effort began in February, 72 schools out of Baltimore's 205 had separated paper, bottles and cans from other garbage. The announcement, held at Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School, was met with applause from students who have been working to expand recycling this year.

As Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and schools CEO Andrés Alonso made the announcement, second- and third-grade students clad in green T-shirts held handmade signs on the front steps of Highlandtown.

"[Recycling] helps the earth, and the grass grows," said student Joseph Smith.

"I like recycling because it saves the world," added classmate Meelana Hawkins.

Alonso said he was impressed by the early results: "It's amazing. If it grew like that right away, I see no reason it shouldn't continue."

Denise Ashley, principal of Highlandtown, said the initiative at her school was fueled by students' desire to give back. She said the students began talking about recycling during science classes last year.

"The children took hold of the idea and decided it was important to get started," she said.

Highlandtown applied for funding from a partnership between city schools and Baltimore's Office of Sustainability, which provides resources for environmental, nutritional and energy-efficiency education.

The school got a grant for $1,000, titled "Planet Superheroes." With the grant, Highlandtown will expand its recycling program, create educational recycling posters and construct a composting bin.

Recycling bin distribution, which began Feb. 13, has equipped city schools with 65-gallon, single-stream recycling containers, which combine materials that will be sorted at a recovery facility. The bins are picked up weekly.

"I'm encouraged," Rawlings-Blake said about the participation of all city schools. "I'm excited to have this impact on the community. We'll see schools challenge each other to see who can be the most efficient."

With the dedication of students and faculty, Highlandtown hopes to continue the recycling successes.

"Our kids own it. We're just facilitating what they want to do," Ashley said.

"We're raising a generation of tremendously environmentally conscious kids," Alonso said. "They'll be taking care of us in a few years."

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