Sharing The Recycling Bug At Hanalei

The Recycling Crew (from left): Steve Searby, Tiana Tomoda-Bannert, Bridget Tampus, Sunny Patey, Masai Tomoda and Juliana Tampus. Photo courtesy Bridget Tampus

A recycling program started by a former student is helping Hanalei Elementary to purchase much-needed classroom supplies

Hanalei Elementary School has caught the recycling bug, thanks to Bridget Tampus. The mother of three serves as head of the school’s recycling committee and is determined to get everyone excited about reducing and reusing.

She started the program about three years ago because there was a need for more school funding. Since she was already a recycling advocate and practiced the earth-friendly ritual at home, Tampus thought she could encourage others to do the same.

“I just felt it was something I could do,” she says.

By facilitating a routine recycling day for HI-5 containers — glass, aluminum and plastic — Tampus is able to raise donations for the North Shore school.

It began as a once-a-week drop-off, where students, parents and community members would unload their empty containers on campus and Tampus would collect a 5-cent return on each item at Hanalei Community Center. When that location was no longer available to Tampus, she had to drive to Kilauea. But one traumatic experience involving a truck and empty aluminum cans on the highway left her seeking an alternative.

“We had stopped both lanes, picking up our blowing cans everywhere,” she says.

Now, James Higginbotham of Kaua‘i Community Recycling Service drives his flatbed truck to the school once a month to collect the containers and shell out the refund money.

“It saved our program,” she says. “He’s our knight in shining armor.”

Or shining aluminum. Even though the pickup is now once a month, recycling bins are located at the front of the school 24/7 for anyone to drop off their recyclables.

Students are always surprised when Tampus tells them how much the recycling project earns each month.

“I love to see the kids’ expressions,” she says.

Tampus has even implemented incentives for kids to increase the amount they recycle. They get tickets for bags of containers they bring in, and the class with the most tickets gets a prize, such as sugar-free popsicles.

“We try to keep it healthy,” jokes Tampus.

Bridget Tampus is helping out her elementary alma mater. Coco Zickos photo

About $500 is raised each month, and the extra money has been extremely helpful for teachers to purchase supplies, especially with budget cuts resulting in large classroom sizes.

“There is no money for art supplies,” says Tampus, citing one example of how teachers have had to dig into their own pockets to bring certain activities into their classrooms.

In fact, “HI-5 for Supplies” is a slogan Tampus likes to use for her voluntary project.

Hanalei Elementary even raised $1,000 recently as part of a Great American Can roundup contest. The school was awarded the money for collecting the most aluminum cans per capita compared to other participating schools in the state.

“I didn’t realize we were recycling that much,” says Tampus, who always has five or six volunteers put on their rubber gloves each month to help sort. “It was really exciting to get the news that we won.”

But it’s not just the money that is important. Teaching keiki to reduce the amount of trash that gets sent to the landfill is another great motivator for Tampus.

“It’s really important to teach our kids because they’re our future,” says the Kaua‘i native, who attended Hanalei Elementary.

To see so much trash and items still not being recycled is sad for Tampus.

“Even if you don’t bring the recycling here and you recycle for your own family fund, that’s great too,” she says. “Whatever your fund is, I hope that I’m raising awareness.”

The community is invited to donate their HI-5 containers to Hanalei Elementary the first Friday of each month.

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