Teachers upset after KCK schools cut recycling programs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Rebecca Crowl's fourth grade class is getting two math lessons: the one every student sees as they learn how to identify ones, tens, hundreds and thousands, and the one that happens at the end of the day when most students are gone.

That's when Mrs. Crowl takes home the class recycling bin to dump with her own recycling.

It's a chore, but one she felt she had no choice but to accept after the Kansas City, Kan. School District was forced to eliminate its recycling program this year to save money.

"She was so upset about losing the recycling program, she's just decided she is still going to have a bin in her classroom," said teacher Lauren Campbell who also takes home her students' recycling each week.

Crowl and Campbell are two of many teachers at White Church Elementary School who are upset that Deffenbaugh, the trash company that for years hauled their recyclables away for free, wanted to start charging the school district this year as much as $25,000. The already cash-strapped district had no choice but to eliminate the recycling program.

"Now those same things that could be recycled are just going to be filling up a landfill," said Campbell.

That's where the second math lesson comes in. A spokewoman for Deffenbaugh said that as the price of oil dropped this year, so did the resale value of recyclables. A program that used to be a cash cow for trash companies is now losing money. In fact, many recycling companies across the country have been forced to close their doors.

But not recycling is simply not an option for teachers like Crowl and Campbell. They can't just start asking their kids to ignore the environment.

"For every ton of recycled paper we save 30,000 gallons of water," said Campbell, citing a statistic she read on Deffenbaugh's own website.

Campbell has started a petition to bring back recycling. She also reached out to FOX 4 Problem Solvers in her search for a solution.

We contacted a variety of environmental agencies for help. They offered no easy answers except to follow Mrs. Crowl's example and have teachers or parents start disposing of the recyclables on their own.

Then we called the Kansas Department of Environment Bureau of Waste Management. That's when we learned about a Green Schools Grant. The state gives out more than $1 million each year to schools to pay for items like recycling. The typical grant is between $700 and $4,500. Even at the low end, that would most likely be enough to pay for one school's recycling.