The Strathcona Stars Dead Pen Recycling Revolution

Strathcona Elementary

Strathcona Elementary
  • Grade 6
Video Project (1 video)

Community Coach(es): 

Chilliwack School Board Trustees

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In November 2014, Strathcona Elementary School began a recycling revolution.  We noticed that students, teachers and support staff use a lot of pens, markers, highlighters and mechanical pencils in schools.  We began to wonder where all the pens go when they are no longer working.

The first thing we did was take a mini-field trip to the recycling bin in our school parking lot.  There, we learned that pens were not acceptable waste for the blue bins in the school.  After some research, however, we discovered that a company called TerraCycle Canada will accept dead writing instruments for recycling.  We learned that they collaborate with Staples Canada to recycle dead pens, markers, highlighters and mechanical pencils and transform them into benches, watering cans, garbage cans and other useful things.

We decided to begin collecting pens in a big white bucket in our classroom.  Many students brought in dead pens from home to fill up our bucket.  Then, a student from our class bravely stood at the microphone at a school assembly and told the entire school what we were doing in our classroom.  Soon, other students and teachers began bringing us their pens for recycling.  Then, another courageous student attended a School Board Meeting and implored the Chair and Trustees to encourage all schools in Chilliwack to recycle their dead pens.  The School Board Office set-up their own 'pen coffin' and wrote a letter to the City on our behalf.  The City came on board and began recycling pens in their office!  Their Environmental Services Department sent us a big box of pens for recycling and then they contacted the Fraser Valley Regional District and invited them to join the pen recycling revolution!  Our project idea became infectious!

A journalist from one of the Chilliwack newspapers came into our classroom for a discussion about the project and before we knew it, our story was in the local paper.  As community members read the newspaper article, hundreds of pens began to arrive at our school office.  Our project was getting huge and community participation was incredible!  We had set a humble goal to recycle 250 pens before the end of the school year, but by the end of February we had already recycled just under 3000 pens!

One day, we briefly debated as to whether it's more important to recycle a refrigerator or a pen.  The answer, ultimately, is to recycle both, but we are passionate about keeping small pieces of plastic out of the landfill because we know that birds and other wildlife mistakenly eat the plastic thinking that it's food.  We even watched documentaries about how small pieces of plastic are polluting our oceans and how there is a remote island in the Pacific Ocean that is littered with plastic and other debris.

Beginning and maintaining this project has taught us about the environment, pollution, community infrastructure, media, courage, responsibility and teamwork.  The best news is that both the City of Chilliwack and the Regional District are considering making pen recycling a permanent part of their solid waste managment plans.  We hope that our green project inspires you to think when you run out of ink.


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