BENTON — The word around Kelly schools in Benton is that vocational agriculture teacher Jeff Scherer can hear paper crumple from anywhere in the district.
Scherer laughed when asked about the rumor.
"I can hear paper crinkle six miles away," he said.
Scherer admitted he doesn't like to waste so if he hears a student — or co-worker — crumpling up a piece of paper, he's quick to intervene and ask them to place it in the paper bin in his classroom.
"I've always had a box in my classroom for recycling paper," Scherer said. "It's something I've done for years."
His good habit has caught on with the students.
"Students will catch other students before they throw away paper in the trash can and tell them to put in the paper bin," Scherer said.
This school year — thanks to Scherer's passion for a cleaner environment and a new grant — recycling bins are placed throughout the district, and in addition to collecting paper, they collect cans, plastic and cardboard.
Last winter, the district was awarded a grant through Bootheel Solid Waste Management District to implement a recycling project district-wide beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.
The grant, for which Scherer applied, provided for the purchase of a recycling trailer made in Missouri in the district, a trailer bed on which the shop class will build another trailer, a paper shredder and collection tubs to be placed throughout the school.
Expenses totaled $12,522 — of which just over $10,000 was part of the initial grant. Additional funding was also provided: $800 from the school district; $800, FFA; $300, Monsanto; $150, FTA; $100, Student Council; and $100, FCCLA.
"We have since received an additional $235 from local individuals since the beginning of school," Scherer said. "Jami Walker, one of our high school teachers, sent an email to members of the Kelly Youth Activities Organization, and the money started coming in."
As part of the Kelly recycling project, collection tubs were placed in classrooms, libraries, computer labs, offices and teacher workrooms. Recyclables accepted include paper, No. 1 and 2 plastic, aluminum and tin cans and cardboard.
Each Friday, student-helpers collect the recyclables from the classrooms and carry them to the recycling trailer on the school's campus.
Every other week, ISI Environmental and Recycling LLC comes to the school district and picks up the recyclables, Scherer said. Before, Scherer said he would collect the paper and then haul it to Cape Girardeau or another local mobile recycling bin.
Since the new school year began Aug. 15, the district has collected 2,050 pounds of cardboard, 106 pounds of plastic, 1,285 pounds of paper and 275 pounds of tin cans for total of 3,716 pounds of recyclables.
The district will receive money for its returned recyclables, and only time will tell how much the district will profit from the program, Scherer said.
Senior Gaven Ray is one of the high school seniors who helps empty classroom bins every Friday.
"I think it's good," Ray said about the recycling project. He said students are more mindful of not throwing away items that can be recycled.
Sixth-grader Mackenzie Morgan said she likes the project, too.
"It helps the environment," she said.
Christina Dodd, sixth grade science teacher at the middle school, said she and the students already have seen the difference of how much was wasted in previous years.
"We're able to see how much trash is truly trash by seeing how many items are being taken out to the bins," Dodd said.
For example, this year her class will save their empty water and Gatorade bottles for recycling. Each day the bottles are rinsed and placed on a countertop in the back of her classroom, and by Friday, the counter is covered, Dodd said.
"Last year all of that went into the trash," Dodd said about the bottles.
Valerie Ward, high school language arts teacher, said the students seem to be excited about the recycling project because they are directly involved in helping their school.
"This is something local they can do," Ward said. "There's not been much of an opportunity for them like this one, so this project is something they can do to benefit the community without having to go somewhere. They can help right here at home."
As a teacher, Ward said, they deal with so much paper so it feels good to know they're not wasting as much anymore.
"The teachers are really behind me," Scherer said. "They've told me: 'Hey, this is great. The kids are using the bins every day.'"
The project also has created a friendly competition among teachers, Scherer noted.
"They like to see who has more recyclables in their bins each week. Everyone wants to have the bin with the most items," Scherer said with a smile.
Currently, the recycling project isn't open to the public, but Scherer said that's something he would like to explore.
In the meantime, the district will continue to reap the benefits of recycling.
"We are really teaching a good example to our students," said Mary Kay Smith, language arts and social studies teacher at the high school. "Some of them might have already been recycling, but now they're doing it even more, and they are doing it regularly. It's keeping our school cleaner, and we're helping the environment."