At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) started hearing from FIRST® LEGO® League TRASH TREKSM teams from across Massachusetts and the nation. CET is a nonprofit that runs two recycling programs funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection: RecyclingWorks (recycling assistance for businesses) and THE GREEN TEAM (environmental education for K-12 students).
The staff at CET was excited by the interest in their programs, they contacted FIRST® headquarters in Manchester, NH, USA, with a little bit of background. Special thanks to Heather Billings, Emily Fabel and Cate Foley, Green Business Services, Center for EcoTechnology for sharing their perspective.
The teams who contacted us were looking for feedback from recycling experts on their TRASH TREK projects. We were excited to hear from so many students investigating creative strategies to increase recycling. Teams were improving recycling in their schools, innovating ways of recycling challenging materials, and designing new methods to collect and process recyclables. Students were eager to speak to waste diversion specialists about their ideas and troubleshoot challenging aspects encountered in their projects.
One of our recycling experts, Heather Billings, consulted with a team from Virginia that requested feedback on their design for a machine to process compostable materials. The students were very concerned that the worms included in their design would not get injured in the process. A team from Wisconsin called the RecyclingWorks hotline with questions about drywall recycling and whether the state of Massachusetts was facing pushback for implementing a ban on Construction & Demolition waste entering the landfills.
Closer to home, a team from neighboring Hadley, MA, USA, reached out for assistance to design a recycling collection program for their school cafeteria. Since they are so near the CET office, our Outreach EcoFellows were able to visit the team and help them get started on their project. With the recycling sorting station plan the team created as part of the TRASH TREK Challenge, and recycling bins they requested from THE GREEN TEAM, their school will start diverting food scraps, recyclables, and liquids from their trash this semester!
We are delighted that the Trash Trek Challenge has inspired so many students to take on the issue of waste reduction in their schools and communities. We encourage these inspiring inventors, engineers, and activists to keep up the good work!