Most plastic bottles collected Guinness World Record - Florida students

A prelude to Earth Day started at Sugg Middle School on Wednesday, as the Manatee County School District’s Energy and Recycling Department hosted the “1st Annual Manatee County Schools Recycling Round-Up.” Students counted over 65,970 plastic bottles and containers to help set an example that recycling is necessary and a community effort.

If you can picture large recycling dumpsters and a mountain of plastic bottles and containers, then you can just imagine how much effort and heart students put into saving the environment for Earth Day. But the youth were overjoyed to make a difference in the world and, as one community, turned hard work into a simple recycling solution.

Jacqueline Ayala, 13, Savannah  Hodgkinson, 12, and Kane Souders, 14, were out sorting and collecting plastic to recycle before the rest of the students joined in the effort at Sugg Middle on Wednesday.

“It feels pretty good to do this because we know that all these bottles are not going to end up in the landfills,” Jacqueline said. “We’ve put more than 1000 bottles into the bins for recycling. We are helping animals, the ocean and our Earth.”

In fact, all those plastic bottles and containers were collected from the community to recycle at the school, and that amount weighed 5,440 pounds.

“It’s really interesting to see how much we can recycle if we put our heads to do it,” Savannah added. “We thought it was going to be hard, but it didn’t turn out to be too hard at all. We just have to do it and motivate everyone else to do so, too.”

But Savannah was sure to mention that they could not recycle the cans with the project they were doing, since their work was going towards breaking a Guinness World Record for the most collected plastic bottles.

Other students also joined in the Recycling Round-Up from Braden River High, Nolan Middle and Braden River Middle - who also sent their bottles to be counted. But Mike Barber, spokesman for the District, said that Manatee County was especially proud of the Sugg Middle students and their efforts to encourage their fellow students and family members to recycle.

“The students at Sugg wanted to make a difference in their school, community and world, and today they did just that,” said Patrick Gallagher, after the bottles were counted. “They didn't just learn about recycling.  They embraced it and shared their knowledge with friends, family and neighbors.”

Gallagher is the Energy and Recycling specialist for the Manatee County School District, and he was at the school to help the students and teachers move the project along during the event.

“It helps the kids to understand the importance of recycling,” he said, watching the students toss small bins of plastic into the larger bins for recycling. “A plastic bottle will last 500 years if it ends up in a landfill. Where, if we recycled that same bottle, it could come back as, say, a 50 percent recycled t-shirt.”

Ultimately, Gallagher said he wanted the kids to take the recycling habit home because youth make a difference by setting an example for all.

“People need to be able to have the will to know they are doing something right,” Kane said. “I would say for Earth Day that people need to get up and get active, and to help recycle plastic so the world we live in can be better in the future.”
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