Tue January 12, 2016

Fleetwood District Wins Clothing Recycling Program

Originally published in Reading Eagle Newspaper

Fleetwood ARD SchoolCourtesy of Fleetwood School District | By a recycling bin, student participants in the Fleetwood School District's middle and high school recycling clubs include, from left, Nicholas Weiss, Kyler Tregear, Daniel Heebner, Kaylee Stewart, Matthew Boyer, Malena Rosado, Kirsten Werst and Christopher Weinhold. The district placed first in a statewide clothing-recycling program.

FLEETWOOD, PA - When it comes to recycling clothes, the Fleetwood School District is No. 1 statewide.

The district was told this month it had placed first among 17 districts in the 2015 America Recycles Day Challenge for Pennsylvania schools sponsored by USAgain, which encourages people to "use it again."

USAgain, a national for-profit that recycles and reuses clothing, shoes and other textiles, has been a leader in the textile recycling industry since 1999.

Its mission is to provide consumers with a convenient and eco-friendly option to rid themselves of excess clothing, which is often diverted to landfills.

In 2014, USAgain collected 54 million pounds of textiles for reuse and recycling. The nonprofit maintains more than 10,000 collection bins in 16 states.

"This is about the third year we've participated in the program, and the first year we've won," said Dr. Paul Eaken, Fleetwood superintendent.

Eaken said the district maintains two bins in its parking lot between the middle and high school.

"This past year, with the help of the community, we collected 1,998 pounds of clothing during the period between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15," Eaken said.

For its efforts, the district will receive a $250 first prize, which will be contributed to the school district foundation and used to support the student recycling program at the middle and high schools, Eaken said.

He said students with their advisers will be submitting a proposal for approval on how they would like to use the money.

"This was a community effort driven by a mix of reasons, including awareness of the needs of our neighbors hit by the recent economic recession as well as our students' awareness of the importance of recycling," Eaken said.

Eaken said Fleetwood, which had been a growing district about 10 years ago, has stabilized and now has about 2,650 students in a high school, middle school and three elementary schools.

"The Recycles Day Challenge, now into its ninth year, encourages students to learn more about recycling and its impacts on the planet," said USAgain CEO Mattias Wallander, in a statement. "It's a great way for schools to engage with students and their communities about the importance of keeping textiles out of landfills, while raising money and reducing carbon footprints at the same time."

Wallander said that according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, 85 percent of all unwanted clothing in the U.S., or more than 12 million tons, is thrown into the trash and buried in landfills each year, with the average individual discarding some 70 pounds of textiles annually.

However, the 15 percent of clothing that does get a second life is the equivalent to taking 1 million automobiles off the road for a year, Wallander said.

In the statewide contest, St. Jude Elementary School in Mountain Top, Luzerne County, placed second, and Monsignor McHugh High School in Cresco, Monroe County, was third, winning $100 and $50 awards, respectively.