In Manchester this spring, hundreds of children refused to throw away the trash.
Soda cans, used bottles, newspapers -- none of it made it into the garbage.
And the Town of Manchester applauded the children.
Manchester's children were playing the Trash Ball game a different way, by recycling -- the simple task of reserving reusable materials for a separate pickup on trash day.
The town began curbside recycling in November, under the current two-year contract with Hughes Trash Removal.
To heighten awareness of what can be recycled and how easy it is to do, they offered a schoolwide contest at Manchester Elementary School. The prize was pizza, and plenty of it.
Pizza, of course, is a favorite staple for just about anyone age 10 and under. The contest caught the interest of 67 percent of the student body. That's more than 500 kids whose parents certified that they recycled some part of the weekly trash for six weeks.
On May 17, 144 happy kids munched through 30 cheese pizzas, and the town picked up the tab. Denise Wheeler, who performs the complex duties of town receptionist, billing clerk and more, poured cups of soda for the eager crowd.
Miriam DePalmer, the town's assistant zoning administrator, distributed slices of pizza to the children.
Town Manager Terry Short brought along fancy certificates and plans to hold another contest at school in the fall.
All 122 members of the third-grade got to attend the pizza party, because as a whole they had the highest percentage of recyclers. And every one of the 22 students in Terri Pittinger's fifth-grade class had recycled, so they, too, got to attend the party.
School principal Bonnie Ferrier watched her teachers and the town employees serve sodas and slices to the raucous third-graders.
"You made this happen," Mrs. Ferrier reminded the children. "Recycling -- we'll have to do it for the rest of our lifetimes to make a difference."
Could these 8-year-olds make a difference in just a few months?
The fact is, household wastes account for only 1 percent of the trash in the United States; the rest is industrial wastes. But our trash is still a problem, one that every child can see.
There simply are not enough landfills to take the trash, and landfills are too ugly to take up space in most habitated areas.
Recycling nonreplenishable resources, such as aluminum and petroleum-based plastics, makes sense.
Carroll County is required by state law to recycle 15 percent of its household trash by 1994.
Taking the extra care to separate the weekly trash came as easy as munching pizza to the third-graders.
"This pizza is good," said Jason Tanye between bites. He recycled cans and paper.
"I've recycled before," said Mat Akers. He kept track of soda bottles, milk cartons and cans.
"It was something new. I recycled newspapers," said Jeff Rill. With a grin, he added, "And old pieces of paper, like my tests."
Michael Utz was equally enthusiastic. He said he and his father "recycled newspapers and we drink a lot of soda, so we recycled cans and bottles."
Mrs. DePalmer made the recycling contest work, Mr. Short said.
He credited her with getting the project started, tracking class participation week by week, and providing graphs of grades and classrooms so students could see the race in action.
"This was a good project, because if you can get kids at this age level you're getting set for the future," said Mrs. DePalmer, who speaks as a knowing mother of two. "When you get set in your ways, even at my age, recycling doesn't come easy."
Mr. Short said he felt the contest was a valuable tool for educating the kids who, in turn, got their parents involved. "If you get kids recycling, you get a high level of involvement," he said. "My kids really influenced me when we started."