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Like clockwork on Wednesdays and Fridays, designated fifth-graders collect recyclable items at Colene Hoose Elementary School in Normal.

It’s a habit at the school, which has encouraged recycling for a dozen years.

Now, their good habits are being shared at all schools in the Unit 5 district.

Midwest Fiber Recycling last week added 16 stops at Normal, Carlock and Towanda schools as the district moves to single-stream recycling and will do its second weekly pickup Friday. Hudson continues its established program and Bloomington offers free recycling pickup to schools within its city limits.

“It’s a good partnership,” said Marie Streenz of Midwest Fiber, which is helping teach students about recycling and welcomed students to its White Oak Road facility for a tour.

“There were huge machines,” said fifth-grader Nikkil Samayam, 10, of Bloomington.

Students are enthusiastic about recycling, but honest: “Garbage smells real bad,” said fifth-grader Cameron Shandrow, 10, of Normal.

Colene Hoose, which had a pilot single-stream project, has 11 outdoor recycling bins.

Michael Brown, executive director of the Ecology Action Center in Normal, supports the district-wide program, which encourages recycling at home. The center for years has had outreach programs for fourth-graders.

“We need to be modeling what we teach,” said Jean Harper, librarian/instructional media specialist at Colene Hoose. She and her husband, Illinois Wesleyan University environmental studies and biology professor Given Harper, have long supported recycling efforts.

Custodian Dave Mahrt provides gloves to Colene Hoose students and guides their efforts. “They are real good about making sure everything is clean around the recycling bins,” he said.

District 87 food services director Julie McCoy said all kitchens in Bloomington schools have used single-stream recycling since 2010.

“Bloomington High School students rinse plastic beverage containers before recycling; Irving students recycle produce containers they receive as part of the fresh fruit and vegetable program to name a few,” she said.

No one could provide an estimate of recycled materials in the 23 Unit 5 schools, but Bloomington public works director Jim Karch said the amount is less important than the lesson itself.

“It isn’t the volume of material recycled at each school that makes a difference,” he said.

“The difference comes from raising up a generation that understands how recycling makes a difference,” Karch said. “Teachers have so many topics that they have to fit in a day. Our hope is to make recycling just a part of the everyday classroom. The students then take this behavior home and it makes a larger impact in our community.”

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