RECYCLERS: Sixth-graders set the bar for going green

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 4/10/19

Ellie Lu Fannon, a sixth-grader at Cleveland Middle School, is pioneering a movement she hopes will be adopted by all Cleveland residents. It involves collecting and recycling  bottles, …

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RECYCLERS: Sixth-graders set the bar for going green

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Ellie Lu Fannon, a sixth-grader at Cleveland Middle School, is pioneering a movement she hopes will be adopted by all Cleveland residents. It involves collecting and recycling  bottles, cans and paper just in time for Earth Day.

Members of the Beta Club at CMS, Ellie Lu and her friend, Allie Stanfield, needed to complete their service hours. At just 11 years, the girls can’t volunteer at many businesses due to their age, so they figured out a different method of completing their hours.

“Ellie has always loved recycling since she knew what garbage was. So she and I organized a recycling pickup program with our neighborhood and completed it a week ago. Our neighbors left their recyclables out, we picked it up and took it to the recycling center,” said Ellie Lu’s mother, Emily Fannon. “However, that was only 50 people. Cleveland and Bradley County together have 100,000 residents.”

With Earth Day approaching April 22, Emily said Ellie Lu and Allie were inspired to spread awareness of recycling throughout the community, and hopefully improve the amount of recycling for Earth Day as a result.

“How much of an effect would we have if everyone in Cleveland collected their recyclables for Earth Day? What if they just collected paper or cans? That’d be a huge impact,” Emily added.

After Ellie Lu and Allie told the CMS Beta Club about the plan, the Beta leaders now want to challenge other students to recycle — and form recycling plans with their families.

This decision comes at a time when — according to Emily — there is not a single Earth Day event set for Cleveland.

In the past, Ellie Lu and Allie have helped clean up the Greenway and other areas around town, despite the recent lack of Earth Day events. They plan to hold another recycling day on Saturday, April 20, just two days before Earth Day, and challenge the town to start saving its recyclables starting on Monday, April 15, so  there will be a large amount of items collected by Saturday.

For those interested in the program, all Ellie Lu asks you to separate your items, meaning keep plastics with other plastics, aluminum with aluminum, etc.

“It’s important to recycle because it ultimately puts less trash on our planet, and we don’t want everything just building up in landfills,” Ellie Lu said.

Allie said while their teachers do recycle, it’s mostly just paper, so implementing the collection of cans and bottles in addition to the paper will see a significant amount collected.

Everywhere she goes, Alliee notices trash on the sides of the road, which is not only displeasing to look at, but also poses a threat to wildlife. She explained even throwing your wad of chewing gum out the window can choke a bird, and  gum comes with a wrapper for a reason.

Emily cites the growing size of local landfills as a visible reason to recycle, and said that Ellie Lu — even at a young age — asked about the bad smell emanating from a nearby landfill and was shocked to hearthe “mountains” she occasionally saw were made entirely of compacted trash.

Many items people typically wouldn’t think to recycle are mistakenly thrown away as trash on a regular basis. These include fast food paper cartons for French fries, the cardboard boxes for hamburgers, styrofoam cups and paper cups. If  you can find the familiar triangular recycling symbol, it can be recycled.

Having a convenient location for recycling will encourage the practice, and several businesses like Publix already have bins for egg crates and a plastic bag return.

Education about the benefits of recycling and environmental sustainability overall is sorely lacking, Allie and Ellie Lu say.

“Normally in a class on Earth Day, they’ll just give us something like a coloring sheet and say, ‘Happy Earth Day,’ and that’s it,” Allie said.

“In third grade, we did an experiment where we each buried a toy and then unearthed them months later. This was cool, but it was a one-time thing,” Ellie Lu said.

When Emily and Ellie Lu collected recyclables the first time, approximately 13 percent of their neighborhood participated. They’re hoping to get 20 percent or more on April 20 after raising awareness through various avenues.

Since Cleveland is growing, this also means the landfill is as well, so these sixth-graders hope to move Cleveland’s focus onto recycling and community cleanliness for 2019, and see how far that awareness will grow.

“We want to encourage other kids to appeal to their parents, their neighbors and their community for that week. All it takes is a few times doing something to make it a habit, and make a real difference,” Emily said.

For those interested in recycling, there are three locations in town to bring your items. These locations are the Bradley County landfill, 282 Natures Trail McDonald, TN 37353; the Peerless Road facility, 3110 Peerless Road; and the Urbane Road facility, 234 Urbane Road.

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