Recycling Initiative

This past Thursday, we officially split our group into teams. We decided to mix the teams evenly between old and new members to avoid animosity between age groups. Our plan is to have the teams separate but united. Different logos and different robots, but we hope to keep ideas, information, and parts open to all. In addition to this, we’re keeping our project of recycling cans and bottles a group activity. Now that we’re beginning our new year, we’ve revisited the idea of creating a more efficient system of recycling.

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One issue we have is competition from other groups. Kennedy is a big school and aims to support all of its clubs and groups, therefore there are other groups that have put out recycling containers for their own profit. From what we can tell, we have the most rooms covered out of all of the groups who recycle at Kennedy, but at the same time, not all rooms are covered. That’s primarily due to the last issue – grossness. Most of the recycling containers at this point are either trashcans or cardboard boxes. Given the excess of sticky sugary residue, bugs generally find these spots to be a nice area to congregate. This also creates a sticky situation for us when we take the bottles out, and can even cause mold to accumulate in the boxes. Some teachers choose not to deal with this, thus reducing the amount of bottles we get weekly.
Therefore we are coming up with a solution to all of these problems. we believe we can design a cheap box/crate to distribute amongst all of the teachers that will be more durable, clean, and bug free than the cardboard boxes, and more easily recognizable by students as a place to toss bottles. We believe that the box we create should be 16″x16″ in width and depth and 20″ in height. The box will be created out of either lightweight plywood wood or PVC pipe, and should be cheap enough and easy enough to make that we can produce enough for as many teachers as would like one. The plan is to line these boxes with at least one garbage bag to keep the box itself from getting sticky. we will also prototype the idea of double bagging the boxes with cat litter in between the bags to serve as a leak stopper incase the bags get punctured. We aren’t sure if this is necessary or not, but it’s an interesting idea.

With any luck, we will be able to expand the number of rooms we recycle for, and create a near monopoly over the school. This is extremely important in my mind. There is a bill in the state legislature that would expand the 5 cent refund to encompass not only carbonated drinks and aluminum cans, but also water and Gatorade bottles. After some simple data collection, we’ve found that well over 2/3 of the bottles we take in are bottles that have no 5 cent refund, such as the Gatorade and water bottles. We recycle these bottles anyways of course, but we get no profit for doing so. When/ if this bill passes, there will be a scramble amongst school groups to get their bins out. If we already have a nose around the market, our profits will easily triple if not quadruple. We currently get around $500 a year through recycling, and with a new team, we will need a larger cash flow to keep up with parts, travel, registration, and a number of other expenses.

In addition to the box and program upgrades, I’m probably going to push for a new method of tab removal. During our collection, and sorting of cans and bottles, we make sure we pull the tabs off of the cans and save them to donate to the Ronald McDonald House http://www.rmhckc.org/pop-tabs. We currently have over 10,000 pop tabs saved in two separate “Cheese Balls” containers. The first is about half full, is sealed, and has 5,000 counted. The other is more full, but has not been counted, and we don’t know the exact number.

Ours has been emptied and filled half-way with pop tabs.

Ours has been emptied and filled half-way with pop tabs.

Unfortunately, pulling tabs does take more time; time we could be spending doing a number of different things. It also makes our pockets sticky from the pop residue on the tabs. I’m currently looking into using cheap pocket pliers to pull the tabs more quickly, and having a container hanging on our sorting bins that holds the tabs (no more sticky pockets).
These ideas should help improve the overall function of recycling and help us run a more efficient project.

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