Students at two Columbia elementary schools want people to know there's one more thing to do after the holiday rush: recycle their gift-wrapping paper.
A dozen Talbott Springs and Phelps Luck students, representing the first participants in a county program called "Recycling Rangers," will be passing out more than 200 recycling bags to apartment complexes and residents today and Wednesday.
Apartment complexes don't have regular curbside recycling pickup, unlike town homes and single-family houses in many areas of Howard County.
Six Talbott Springs third-graders will pass out 36 bags -- one each for every laundry room at the Oakland Meadows and Dorsey's Forge apartment complexes in Oakland Mills -- that residents can use to store used wrapping paper.
Six other fourth-graders at Phelps Luck Elementary School are handing out a total of 185 bags, one for every resident at the Chase Kendall apartments in Long Reach.
Students this week also will pass out reminders and post fliers urging apartment residents to recycle their used wrapping paper.
Used foil wrapping paper cannot be recycled.
County recycling trucks will pick up the bags Jan. 2.
The effort is part of the schools' Type III enrichment program, which gives students a chance to pursue independent research projects.
It is being done in conjunction with the county government's new Recycling Rangers program, which encourages students to pursue recycling efforts.
Gift-wrapping paper, including cardboard, newspapers and stationery and paper products, make up 40 percent of the waste at the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, according to Betsy McMillion, the county's recycling coordinator.
"A lot of the kids and people don't know that paper is a problem," she said. "They think it's a plastic problem."
The county wants to offer recycling services at apartment complexes, but it won't start until it hires more staff next year, according to Linda Fields, county recycling manager.
If the county were to go ahead with a program, the possibilities include placing big containers for apartment dwellers to dump their recyclables, as well as routine curbside pickups.
Only two out of 10 apartment and condo dwellers recycle, compared with six out of 10 town-home and single-family home residents, according to county statistics.
"Whenever you have recyclables and it's not convenient . . . you lose people," Ms. McMillion says. "And people in apartments don't have a lot of [space] to store their recyclables until they're picked up."
The gift-wrap recycling project began when students approached Heidi Chapman, who teaches in the gifted and talented program, to say they were interested in environmental issues.
They chose recycling holiday paper from a list of ideas.
The students are decorating the recycling bags -- 3-foot-tall brown grocery bags -- with construction paper and glitter.
The bags were donated by Columbia-based S3 Technologies and Sewell's Ace Hardware and Home Center in Ellicott City.
Students support recycling.
"Recycling is important because if nobody does it, the whole world would be trash and we wouldn't exist," said Amy Cole, 8, a Talbott Springs third-grader.
"The more trees there are, the more animals we'll have," said Lainie Scudder, 8, a Talbott Springs student who brings her lunch in a lunch box and stores her sandwiches and other snacks in reusable plastic containers.
And while trees cut for paper are now being grown on tree farms, these farms "take up space from real forests, and harmful chemicals are used to to grow the trees," she says.
Other Talbott Springs students who are participating in the program are Laura Crabb, Colleen Pyles, Aleka Ross and Erica Libra.
Phelps Luck fourth-graders who are doing the project are Samuel Ou, Khadejah Quashie, Brandon Liang, Rochelle Hester, Andre Brooks and Sara Philby.