September 22, 2010

Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose, Rejoice

Clarke Welch gets an unexpected round of applause from recycling activist Jean Rolasvig at Derryfest.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It's not quite accurate to say Jean Roalsvig's enthusiasm over recycling is contagious. That would imply her faith in greening the planet through religiously recycling somehow floats through the air and settles randomly on unsuspecting trash infidels.
Rather, Jean Roalsvig is on a mission to help Derry go green, making her more of a missionary. Her efforts have been focused on West Running Brook Middle School, and the results are tangible, if not remarkable.
If recycling were a religion, she'd be the patron saint of sorting.
For the second year running, she's spent five solid days at the beginning of the school year, introducing students to the idea of sorting and recycling their milk and juice containers which, aside from paper, make up the bulk of what most schools generate in daily rubbish.
She coordinated her efforts with the the principal and the PTA, securing six recycling bins to be stationed throughout the school, and in particular, the cafeteria.
“I'm friends with Jerry the janitor, who's great about the recycling process. Rumor has it not all janitors in our schools are on board, but Jerry is,” said Roalsvig.
Students fill a large Clearstream recycling bag every day, which janitor Jerry McCutcheon empties into one of eight dedicated recycling bins stationed outside the school.
From left, Andrew Brochu,GregoryAasen and Alana Duggan recycling in the school
cafeteria at WRB, thanks in large part to the individual efforts of Jean Roalsvig.
“This school is one of the best at recycling,” said McCutcheon, who knows what goes on behind closed custodial doors. McCutcheon recognizes how quickly West Running Brook students have embraced the simplicity of emptying the remnants of their milk, juice or water into a large orange bucket, purchased by Roalsvig, and then dropping the plastic containers into the recycling bin.
Recycling should start at home, said Roalsvig, who would get a hearty second on that point from Derry's recycling coordinator Joanie Cornetta. Townwide recycling efforts are generally worth their weight in commingled plastics and aluminum, said Cornetta, who knows just how to cash in on trash. She trades them like commodities, last year, to the tune of $450,000 in revenue.Just like in the general population, there are those who slip up – either because they're in a hurry to get back to socializing at the lunch table, or because they aren't in the habit at home, evidenced by a girl who drops her plastic cup in the regular trash can, orange peels and all.
She and Roalsvig would like to work together to launch an educational campaign that targets schools and residents alike.
According to Public Works Director Mike Fowler, an estimated 95 percent of households are separating their trash before heading to the dump. He also notes that Derry's recycling rate is 37 percent, compared with many other towns that barely break into double digits.
Sure, there are people slipping cans and bottles into their trash, or forgetting about occasional yogurt cups, or simply cutting corners and throwing out the baby lotion bottle with the figurative bath water.
One sore spot is figuring out how to get apartment complexes on board – most don't provide a way for residents to recycle easily.
Since 1992, the town has reduced its trash tonnage from 14,000 to 9,000 annually – and that has everything to do with recycling, said Cornetta.
She has also been tweaking the town's recycling ordinance, written in 1990, updating the specific items that are recyclable and deleting language that is no longer as relevant to 21st century households, getting it ready to pass muster with the Council.
Cornetta is excited to know that Roalsvig and her counterparts on the Go Green Derry Committee – an offshoot of the town's Conservation Commission – are interested in spreading the gospel of recycling throughout the town, and to local schools.
Go Green Derry founder Paula Frank said she was inspired following the Town Profile meeting in 2008 to do what she could to engage everyone, especially young people, in the idea of appreciating the value of open space.
“Recycling is a big part of what Go Green Derry is about. Jean found us, and her enthusiasm has really made a difference at West Running Brook. One of our goals is to identify people who are willing to get involved and get momentum going at the other schools,” said Frank.
During last weekend's Derryfest, Roalsvig was doing outreach, stationed next to a Recyclemobile, providing hearty applause and cheers for everyone who dropped a can or bottle into the designated slot.
“It's interesting, the reactions I get. From older people, it's like, 'Of course we recycle!,' with a bit of an attitude. Other people just can't seem to be bothered. They don't seem to realize that there's an ordinance in Derry, and not recycling is breaking the law,” Roalsvig said, distracted by Karen Gaudet of Hudson, who was about to recycle a straw.
“No, nope, sorry – that's trash. Just the cup goes in, not the straw,” said Roalsvig, readjusting her contagious smile and mustering applause as Gaudet sorted her recyclables. “This is part of the education process.”

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