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Elgin students celebrate Earth Day with clothing recycling contest | TribLocal

Mon April 23, 2012

Elgin students celebrate Earth Day with clothing recycling contest

By Angela Heuer
Originally published April 23, 2012 on TribLocal Elgin

ELGIN, IL - Students at Larsen Middle School are getting a head start on celebrating Earth Day this year as they compete in a month-long clothing recycling contest sponsored by local textile recycling company USAgain.

Joined by Elgin Mayor David Kaptain, a group of Larsen students helping to manage the program -known as the "Green Team"- convened Friday to promote clothing recycling by depositing their reusable textiles into a USAgain collection box located in the school's parking lot.

"I'm so proud of what these students have been able to accomplish in less than one month's time," said Mayor Kaptain. "I look forward to working with Larsen to help make Elgin a greener city, which will ultimately lead to a better future for their generation and our planet."

USAgain, a Chicago-based textile recycling company that helps divert millions of pounds and textiles from landfills each year, challenged area schools to collect clothing, shoes and textiles during the month of April as part of their Earth Month contest. The three schools that collect the most textiles per student will be awarded cash prizes of $500, $300 and $250, respectively. All 104 participating Chicago-area schools will earn cash based on pounds of clothes and shoes collected.

Larsen officials and students are also discussing new year-round programs to lower the school's carbon footprint.

"The excitement of this contest is driving us to jumpstart other new green initiatives," said Larsen principal Randy Hodges. "Starting today, every day will be Earth Day at Larsen."

The school plans to use any money earned from the contest to put toward an expanded recycling program at the school, added Hodges. Larsen students have already donated an estimated 1,250 pounds of reusable textiles since the contest began on April 1. Abbott Middle School, also located in Elgin, has donated 1,546 pounds.

"It's wonderful to see our students so enthusiastic about giving back to their community," said Trish Molley, a science teacher at Larsen who is coordinating the Green Team. "They're impressed with the range of possibilities that textile recycling offers and we're hoping that the USAgain collection box remains in the parking lot for years to come."

The winners of the Earth Day Contest will be announced in the last week of May.

"This contest is a great way for us to engage with students and the community about the importance of keeping textiles out of landfills - all while raising money for their school," said Mattias Wallander, CEO of USAgain, noting that Americans throw out 85 percent of the clothing in the trash each year. "You can recycle nearly every piece of all clothing, towels and linens and pairs of shoes. Reusing clothing should be as familiar and easy as recycling bottles, cans, paper and even electronics."