Elgin School takes top prize in USAgainís 2013 Earth Month Challenge | Chicago Tribune

Fri May 24, 2013

Read the original story from TribLocal and Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Patch

Students from Abbott Middle School in Elgin recycled more than 3,100 pounds of clothing during the month of April to take first prize in USAgain’s seventh annual Earth Month Challenge contest.

Abbott topped 540 schools, collecting 3,104 pounds of clothing and shoes, and winning the $1,000 first prize, which the school intends to use towards future environmental school and community programs.

“This was a school-wide and community-wide effort,” said Diane Harty, a 7th grade science teacher at Abbott who sponsors the school’s Garden for the Environment Club. “Winning the contest demonstrates that Abbott students understand the importance of reducing waste and protecting the planet by recycling and reusing items and keeping them out of landfills.”

Abbott offers convenient recycling for not only clothing and shoes but for electronics, printer cartridges, cell phones, eye glasses and batteries. In addition, the school recycles its Styrofoam lunchroom trays, which has helped reduce waste by 75 percent!

During the month of April, a record 540 schools across the country competed to collect textiles in USAgain drop boxes located at their schools. USAgain, a for-profit textile recycler based in suburban Chicago, rewarded the top schools by offering cash prizes of $1,000, $750, $500, $250 and $100.

"This contest is a great way for schools to engage with students and their communities about the importance of keeping textiles out of landfills, while raising money at the same time," said Mattias Wallander, CEO of USAgain, noting that 85 percent of all unwanted clothing in the U.S., or more than 
11 million tons, is thrown into the trash and buried in landfills each year.

The goal of the Earth Month Challenge is to raise awareness and educate communities on the importance of textile recycling, as well as giving back to schools for their eco-friendly recycling efforts. The winning schools were:
1. First Place $1,000: Abbott Middle School, Elgin, IL (3,104 pounds)
2. Second Place $750: Byron School District No. 226, Byron, IL (2,616 pounds)
3. Third Place $500: St. Christina School, Chicago, IL (2,445 pounds)
4. Fourth Place $250: Highland Elementary School, St. Louis, MO (2,296 pounds)
5. Fifth Place $100: Tri-Valley High School, Grahamsville, NY (2,220 pounds)

This year participating schools combined to collect 188,650 pounds of textiles, which is the equivalent of 43 full garbage trucks of clothing. That adds up to 1,078 cubic yards of landfill space, more than 264 million gallons of water saved and nearly 1.3 million pounds of CO¬2 emissions prevented from damaging the environment. All participating schools received a USAgain Certificate of Sustainability for their commitment to recycling and environmental stewardship.