May 14, 2009

Contact:  Ed Wilson
              Mark Oldfield

SACRAMENTO – When the California Department of Conservation issued a statewide school recycling challenge, students at Ventura’s Lincoln Elementary took it pretty seriously.  In fact, they took it so seriously they collected nearly twice as many bottles and cans as their nearest competitor.

Through March, the school collected 37,587 California Refund Value beverage containers. Fourth-graders in teacher Joanne Hutchins’ class got credit for the most bottles and cans, and thus will represent the school as winners of the statewide challenge. On Friday, Hutchins’ class of 33 will be honored during an 8:10 a.m. ceremony at the school featuring a visit and photo opportunity with Recycle Rex, the state’s recycling spokesdinosaur. Representatives from the Department of Conservation will present the group with colorful backpacks made from recycled plastic bottles.

Parent Gordon Myers, who has spearheaded the school’s recycling efforts for four years, teamed up this year with the owner of a local recycling center. A serendipitous meeting – he was loading his SUV with bags of beverage containers when Lucy Beto of Beto’s Recycling drove by and offered to help – led to a partnership that has raised $4,700 for the school’s art program this year, according to Myers. 

To encourage more kids to participate this year, Myers developed incentives: for every 10 CRV containers a student brought in, he or she received a colorful sticker.  For every 10 stickers earned, a student would get a new toy.  Participation grew from 20 percent of the school’s 226 students to near 50 percent, Myers said.  The volume of beverage containers doubled, to 2,000 pounds per month.

Before his chance meeting with Beto last fall, Myers was virtually a one-person show.  The bottles and cans were stored in the campus basement, and from there Myers would load them into his vehicle each week and take them to a recycling center.  As the program grew, it became overwhelming.  When Lucy Beto saw Myers loading his SUV and offered to help, that all changed. Now, instead of Myers spending hours each week loading and transporting the bottles and cans, Beto’s Recycling sends a truck every couple of weeks to pick up the bags of empties brought in by students and their families, and pays out the cash refunds the school uses to fund its art program.

CRV is five cents on containers less than 24 ounces, 10 cents on containers 24 ounces or larger. Consumer information and a recycling center locator are available at or by calling the Department of Conservation/Division of Recycling toll-free at 1-800-RECYCLE.

In all, 28 schools participated in the statewide recycling challenge. A first-grade class from Cesar E. Chavez Science Magnet Elementary School in Bakersfield took second place with 19,839 containers; third place went to fourth-graders at Trinity Lutheran School in Anaheim; fourth place to fifth-graders at Dixie Elementary in San Rafael; and fifth place to sixth-graders at Walnut Elementary in Turlock.