YATESVILLE — For Tara Craig, it was an idea more than a decade overdue. For Matthew Yatison, James Musto and Cory Tobin, it was an idea worth money for four years into the future.
“I’ve been here 12 years and it’s always bothered me that we don’t recycle,” Craig, a computer teacher at Pittston Area High School said when asked about the district’s new “Project Green” single-stream recycling at the high school.
But persistence pays.
When a new administration came in last summer, Craig pitched the idea again. This time, it took. Superintendent Michael Garzella backed the idea, and Northeast Recycling Solutions offered the same deal to the district it has been giving to local municipalities: You collect it, we’ll recycle it, no charge.
The result: The high school now has single-stream recycling, with dozens of small bins — donated by local municipalities, Craig noted — in classrooms and labs accepting everything from aluminum foil to water bottles.
Students and teachers periodically carry those containers to one of 12 large “totes” — 96-gallon containers on wheels that, in turn, can be taken to a loading dock where the goods are hauled away by NRS.
But this is an idea that was, well, recycled itself.
When Yatison, Musto and Tobin heard of Craig’s recycling effort, they decided to work it into a hypothetical business called “Greanleaf,” drawing up a detailed plan on how it would be launched, how much it would cost and how soon it would turn a profit. (“After the first year,” Yatison said.)
The team entered its business plan in Wilkes University’s annual Entrepreneurial Experience” contest Jan. 23, vying with teams from regional schools all trying to convince judges to invest hypothetical money in their proposals. The team that gets the biggest investment wins. This year, that was Greanleaf.
The prize is a $1,000 annual scholarship for four years if the winners decide to attend Wilkes. Yatison and Musto said that’s where they are going, though they won’t be studying business or environmental sciences.
“I’m hoping to get into web design,” Musto said, while Yatison already has been accepted into Wilkes’ pharmacy school.
While they might be putting the recycling business behind them, Craig wants to push the idea into other district schools — something with which Garzella agrees. In fact, said Craig, one other building already had called and asked about recycling old textbooks.
The program is removing at least one Dumpster-full of waste out of the garbage each week. And while that’s a lot, it hasn’t equated into savings for the district. Maintenance Director Jim Serino said the district pays a flat fee to have two Dumpsters emptied daily at each school.
But Craig still considers it a big win, and believes most of the students feel the same way.
“For the business project, they did a recycling survey of the school,” Craig said, “and the overwhelming majority of students said that if it were available, they would recycle.”
“It was more than 80 percent,” Yatison recounted.
“Now it’s available,” Musto added, “and now they’re recycling.”