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Students excited about keeping bags out of landfills

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Brooks students sack environmental trash

By Stephen Thomas

 BROOKS - Following the celebration of Earth Day throughout the planet, Brooks Elementary students were left holding the bags.

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Over 26,000 of them, plastic shopping bags were collected by Brooks students for proper recycling as part of an Earth Day lesson plan first created by science instructor Sharon Roberson.

“I was looking for a good Earth Day lesson plan,” she said. “What started as a teeny tiny Earth Day project went viral.”

Using information pbtained from www.earthday.org, Roberson learned and informed students that it takes about 1,000 years for a shopping bag to properly decompose.

Research concluded that over 100 billion bags are used annually in the United States. Of that 100 billion, only one to three percent are properly recycled.

“They are outlawed in other places, such as California,” Roberson said. “In the Louisville area there is no recycling. There are only two places in the state of Kentucky that do it properly.”

The lesson plan involved with the student bag collection was to help students visualize how many bags could be gathered in one week’s time by one school.

“I wanted to show the impact of the bags,” said Roberson. “My intent was to have enough to wrap around the school.”

There were enough bags to wrap completely around Brooks Elementary - 12 times in total. Roberson said the final official bag count was at more than 26,500.

“That was in one week’s time,” she added. “Their incentive was a class pizza party. We told them not to collect new bags, only used ones.”

Brooks students went outside on the final collection day to stretch the bags around the building after tying them together in one big chain. And it kept going and going.

The top two class collections came from Daniel Mullins’ fifth grade and Ashley Silas’ first grade. The two rooms collected totals of 6,436 and 6,393, respectively.

Fifth grader Haydon Heath said he initially brought in 30 bags, splitting his home collection with his younger sister, Savannah. Then he noticed everyone else was bringing in “a bunch more.”

“We spent most of the day tying our own bags,” said Heath. “We almost tied 4,000 bags. It went from our corner (of the school building) to the other end of the school.”

Though the event was unique and a special moment for the kids to remember, what Heath and others will hopefully take from it is the lesson plans learned during the week.

“One person in Ameirca uses about 600 bags a year, and only about 18 of them are recycled,” said Heath. “About 100,000 marine animals are killed annually by bags.”

Mullins’ class wrote an informational letter to Waste Management. Heath said the letter included information detailing why the bags were not good to use and how the company should create a facility to properly dispose of them.

“When they are at a landfill, it still takes 10 to 20 years for one bag to decompose,” Heath said.

Roberson said Flynn Brothers Contracting brought a dump truck to the school to transport the bags. The collection completely filled the truck.

“They took them to the Kroger reclaim center in Louisville, who will recycle them,” Roberson said. “Kroger, as a corporation, takes their bags to a recycling center.”

Principal Cheri Lineweaver said Shepherdsville Kroger store manager Joe Miles visited the school, personally donating reusable cloth grocery bags for parents and staff members.

“It’s all about getting into the habit,” said Lineweaver. “Recycle as much as possible.”