The power of recycling

St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School enters recycling contest for a new playground.

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Who knew old toothpaste tubes and floss containers could bring joy to students? The innovative recycling company TerraCycle did. This year, in conjunction with Colgate and ShopRite, TerraCycle is hosting its fourth annual Recycled Playground Challenge, during which hundreds of schools compete to win a new playground. Right now, St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School in Southampton is in the lead.

The school’s only playground was recently closed due to safety reasons and much-needed repairs, so this opportunity to get a new space couldn’t have come at a better time.

Play time: St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School in Southampton entered the Recycled Playground Challenge, during which hundreds of schools compete to win a new playground. St. Katharine is in the lead. PHOTO: LISA JAMES

“Winning the TerraCycle Playground Challenge will not only help us to afford fixing our existing playground, but we will be able to have an additional recreation area for our little ones in pre-kindergarten,” said Lisa James, director of advancement at St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School.

The playground the winning school receives is made entirely from recycled oral care products collected throughout the competition. The competitors earn one credit for each unit of recycled material they send to TerraCycle, with one unit defined as 0.02 pounds of used, post-consumer oral care products and packaging. Acceptable products include empty toothpaste tubes and floss containers. Additional credits are earned through online voting.

“There is more robust participation this year. The schools are really gunning for it,” TerraCycle Publicist Veronica Rajadnya said.

All participating schools must be part of the Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program, which began in 2010 and has so far collected 2.5 million pieces of waste for recycling, diverting them from landfills. The program has also raised $52,000 for various charities.

The Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program is available nationwide and is free. TerraCycle will send participants a shipping label so they can send in their old toothbrushes and dental products for recycling. The program is ongoing throughout the year and open to any individual, family, school or community group. For each piece of waste sent in using the pre-paid shipping label, participants earn money toward donations to the school or charity of their choice.

The Recycled Playground Challenge ends on June 30, and includes schools from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland. Though St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School has a bit of a lead, every unit and vote matters. According to Rajadnya, the competition has come down to the wire in previous years with last-minute shipments of recycled material coming in.

“There have been upsets,” she said.

But the folks at St. Katharine Drexel are remaining positive.

“When it comes to saving our planet, everyone at SKD School is on board,” James said. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to not only divert waste from landfills, but we love that we can turn our efforts into a brand new playground for our children. We believe that children learn best through play, and this challenge is the perfect combination of what we hope to instill in our students.”

To cast a vote in the competition, visit terracycle.com/en-US/contests/colgateshopriteplayground2017. To participate in the free Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program, sign up at terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/colgate. ••