Frederick News Post: Urbana summer camp starts recycling pilot program

Posted by on July 8, 2016

Urbana summer camp starts recycling pilot program

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A class of Frederick County elementary school students is finishing up the last few bites of lunch as Joe Richardson walks over to address them.

“If you don’t drink all your milk, pour it out and recycle the container,” Richardson shouts to the group of students. He tells them to put their potato chip bags into a box he’s holding, which is decorated with empty bags.

At Bar-T Mountainside Summer Camp in Urbana, students from Frederick and surrounding counties learn about the environment while playing outside, visiting the nearby stream and getting educational talks from staff.

Richardson, who owns the camp, is pushing a new quasi-pilot program with a five-bin recycling system.

There’s a bin for trash, for recycling Capri Sun pouches, for recycling potato chip bags, for recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles and a bin for food waste, which go to a composting facility.

Richardson wants to reduce the amount of trash the camp generates from eight dumpster pickups per week to one or less than one. “I’m trying to get to the point where the only thing we’re throwing away are sandwich bags,” he said.

Inside a picnic pavilion at the camp, a counselor in a red-starred tutu pauses between the trash can and a recycling bin. She thinks, then drops a yellow potato chip bag into the recycling bin.

“Making sure the staff do it is one of the challenges,” Richardson said.

The counselor, Lexi Thieman, is a student at Urbana High School. She said the campers usually bring the same kind of lunch each day, so they get used to throwing their waste in the same bins.

Larenz Butler, who recently graduated from Sherwood High School, is another counselor at the camp. “Some of the kids got it a lot faster than I did,” he said.

The campers — and staff — still ask questions about where to put trash, two weeks into Richardson’s pilot program.

Popsicle wrappers, for example, caused some initial confusion for campers.

“Now they all know to put it in the ‘Feed Me’ bin,” Thieman said.

Richardson is a member of the county’s Solid Waste Steering Committee. The group is working with a consultant to find alternatives to incinerating waste and better practices for recycling and trash management.

The consultant, Geosyntec, completed a study for the county based on input from several public workshops.

The consultant suggested the county executive consider a three-bin waste system. The three bins would be trash, recycling and compost.

The consultant also suggested implementing waste reduction programs at county schools.

Richardson’s experiment at Bar-TMountainside is a combination of the two suggestions. He hopes to encourage at least two county schools to start the five-bin system.

“We become our own case study,” Richardson said.

The potato chip bags and Capri Sun pouches are part of specialized recycling programs run by TerraCycle, a company based in New Jersey. Richardson ships boxes packed with the recycling material to the company’s processing center. The program is free, and the company has used recycled materials to produce new goods, such as pens made from recycled pens.

The company has about 5,000 recycling customers in Maryland, according to TerraCycle spokeswoman Lauren Taylor.

Richardson said he has considered processing compost on-site at the camp property, but he’d need a composting expert to get that started.

Instead, a Baltimore company called Waste Neutral picks up his food waste to turn it into compost.

Thieman said campers and staff know that throwing their waste in the right bins is about more than cleanliness; it makes a positive impact on the environment. “It helps everybody. It doesn’t just help us,” she said.

After their lunch, the class got a lesson on solar energy.

The students, from Monocacy and Hillcrest elementary schools, get primers on mechanical engineering and other science, technology and mathematics topics at different field trip locations each year. They chose Richardson’s camp so that they could learn about the wind turbine on the property.

One of the camp’s counselors prompted the group to recite a new word they had just learned.

“Can you say that?” she said.

“Renewable,” the students said in unison.

Follow Sylvia Carignan on Twitter: @SylviaCarignan.

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