Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 45
 
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
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Trenton-based TerraCycle, Inc. Spurs Bridge Academy’s Recycling Efforts

Linda Arntzenius

Although Bridge Academy art teacher Sarah Bernotas was intrigued by TerraCycle’s graffiti arts initiative, it was the Trenton-based company’s recycling program that really caught on at the school.

Ms. Bernotas shared her enthusiasm for the company’s work with a fellow teacher and, before long, the nonprofit school for children with learning disabilities embarked on a full scale environmental initiative.

Students have joined with TerraCycle, Inc. of Trenton, to make sure that items that usually end up in landfills are put to good use.

“Our students are working hard to help the environment every day,” said science teacher Jen Ferri. “They are collecting yogurt containers and juice pouches that are not normally recyclable, and would have ended up in a landfill.”

Through its partnership with New Jersey schools and other community groups, TerraCycle is making planters out of the yogurt containers and purses out of juice pouches. It hopes to sell the purses of various sizes and styles at major retailers in 2008.

TerraCycle’s recycling effort encourages schools and other community groups to sign up for the program for free, pay no shipping costs for the recyclables, and earn money into the bargain.

Each drink pouch earns the school one cent (two cents for the Honest Kids brand). Each 6 ounce yogurt container brings in two cents (five cents for a 32 ounce container). All yogurt containers must be cleaned. To sign up visit: www.terracycle.net/brigades.

According to the Container Recycling Institute, 3.6 billion drink pouches are produced each year. A staple in many school cafeterias, virtually all are sent to landfills because the material is non-recyclable.

Similarly, more than 10 billion yogurt containers a year end up in the nation’s landfills. Since many recycling centers are not equipped to handle polypropylene #5 plastic, Stonyfield Farm (which cites a study by the Center for Sustainable Systems that #5 is the most environmentally preferable choice of plastic because of the minimal amount used) has teamed with TerraCycle to save these containers.

In addition to their partnership with TerraCycle, Inc., students are also collecting paper, bottles, and cans for the Mercer County Improvement Authority’s recycling program. They are also saving soda can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House Pop Tab Collection Program.

Recycling is just one of the school’s environment-focused community service efforts. Students are researching and developing other ideas for raising money for their own programs and for charities in New Jersey and elsewhere.

“The service learning program empowers students to take action, help others, and increase community responsibility,” said to Sue Morris, director of education.

Students have contributed to local charities and national and international causes over the last several years. Since the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, Bridge Academy students have supported the St. Michaels Special School for students with learning disabilities in New Orleans. They raised over $3,000 after that disaster, shipped classroom supplies to St. Michaels last year, and will continue to support the school.

“Working for others less fortunate than ourselves reminds us that all people face challenges in life,” said Ms. Morris.

Innovative Methods

Founded four years ago by a group of parents and educators concerned about the lack of facilities for children with learning disabilities in the area, the Bridge Academy uses a multi-sensory, Orton Gillingham approach and a highly integrated curriculum designed around each student’s individual needs.

The Academy specializes in educating children with dyslexia and central auditory processing disorder. The teaching methods developed at the school have received national recognition and its staff has been asked to present its innovative teaching methods to gatherings of the International Dyslexia Association, the Orton Gillingham Academy, and the Association of Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped.

According to the International Dyslexia Association, 15-20 percent of the population suffers from some type of language-based learning disability.

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