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BENTONVILLE -- Recycling is returning to the Bentonville School District, although this time the district will have to pay for it.

Bentonville schools have been without recycling services since last year, when the Benton County Solid Waste District ended a recyclable pickup program it had offered for about 10 years at no charge.

Each school will get at least one recycling bin starting this fall that will be picked up by Republic Services. The service will cost between $8,500 and $10,000 per year, according to Leslee Wright, district communications director. The school district, which operated on a budget of about $170 million this past school year, has the financial flexibility to absorb the cost, Wright said.

The news pleased Karla Cook, a science teacher at Bentonville High School.

"I think it's a great step in the right direction," Cook said.

Cook sponsors the Environmental Action Club. The club last fall started a recycling program at the high school to help fill the void after the Solid Waste District ended its program. Cook connected with the Bella Vista Recycling Center, which agreed to provide bins and pick up the school's recycling if club members helped with the sorting, she said.

"It's a lot of work on everybody's part," she said.

The Solid Waste District collected paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and tin cans from the Bentonville, Gravette and Decatur school districts. The Waste District was losing more than $50,000 annually on the endeavor, even after the recyclable material was processed and sold, according to Wendy Bland, district director.

The school district was unable to find a company to take over the program at no cost, according to a letter that Paul Wallace, director of facilities, wrote to district employees in April 2017.

Prices for recyclable materials are down. China, once a major destination for global recyclables, banned imports of various types of plastic and paper starting Jan. 1 in an effort to cut back on pollution and the amount of foreign trash it receives. The resulting supply glut has led some U.S. recyclers to stockpile or throw away their materials.

Northwest Arkansas cities and companies are still accepting the same materials at drop-off sites and in curbside bins, and officials said they've generally been able to keep the stuff moving to companies that use it to make new products.

Paul Poulides, board president at the Bella Vista Recycling Center, said he thinks it's important for all schools to have some sort of recycling program. He was frustrated by the lack of recycling in most of the Bentonville schools the past year, saying it sent the "wrong message" to students.

"I think it's up to our teachers and administrators to make sure there's a program," Poulides said.

Cook said her club members collected mostly paper and plastic from teachers who agreed to keep a bin in their classroom. Club members went from room to room during "flex time," a period in the middle of the day that students may use for club work and other activities.

The club hadn't been able to get bins in the cafeterias, something members were hoping to do soon.

Metro on 06/25/2018

Print Headline: Bentonville schools to restart recycling

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