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The idea that a few simple actions can make a big difference is proven in the results of an ink cartridge and cellphone recycling program that began years ago in the St. Marys Catholic elementary schools. Now in its 10th year, the program has brought in more than $23,000 for technology supplies and equipment to benefit the newly incorporated Elk County Catholic School System (ECCSS).
Marlene Stubber, Elk County Catholic High School's technology coordinator, said the program started at the former Queen of the World Elementary School, with teacher Mary Steele and others working with the company FundingFactory to earn money for recycling empty printer cartridges and used cellphones. Stubber, who was then the technology coordinator at Sacred Heart School, said she and St. Mary's Parochial also began working with FundingFactory.
"At that time, we used to have technology meetings between the different schools and we just exchanged different information," she said.
Stubber explained that when the three Catholic elementary schools merged into one system she was put in charge of the program for the system, which at that time included students from preschool to eighth grade. In recent years, students at the high school have also benefitted from the recycling program.
FundingFactory's parent company, Environmental Reclamation Services LLC, is a materials collection and reclamation company headquartered in Erie. The ISO-certified company is able to recycle or reuse more than 97 percent of the materials it collects to fulfill its mission of keeping as much waste out of landfills as possible. FundingFactory provides free boxes and return shipping for collected items.
"Any used ink cartridges are packed up in boxes and sent in, and they award you points, and the points can be converted to cash, or equipment," Stubber said. "At first, at the beginning, we did equipment, we used points to get printers and such from them. But lately, we've just been converting our points to cash, and that way we can get computers, equipment, whatever we're needing at the time."
She explained that because the world has changed so rapidly in terms of technology, education must also adapt to reflect those changes.
"The kids, they have to be technology-literate. We can't send them off with them not knowing all of the things they need. I think it's our responsibility to make sure they're well-prepared," Stubber said.
"It's a big help to have any type of funding like this available. Keeping up with technology is crucial to what we're doing now with students, because technology is such a big part of their lives, and a big part of preparing them for what they'll be doing with their future lives."
The elementary school uses Apple computers, while middle and high school students work on computers that use Windows software and systems.
"When our kids come through, they have the benefit of using both platforms, so there shouldn't be any computer that they wouldn't feel comfortable sitting down and using," Stubber said.
"One of our newest things that we have at the high school would be our laptop computer lab with computers that students can use in their classes. They use them in their creative writing classes and science classes.
"We're also looking to expand the wireless capabilities in the school this summer."
She said boxes for used ink cartridges and cellphones are in place at each school. The public is welcome to drop off both laser and inkjet printer cartridges, as well as cellphones.
"If individuals want to help, they are welcome to drop these things off at (any of) the school offices and we can make sure they get recycled," Stubber said.
She added that several area businesses also donate to the recycling program.
"We probably have four or five factories in town that support us. And that helps," she noted.
"You can get boxes from the company - they'll ship boxes right to you from FundingFactory. UPS just picks the boxes up (when they are full). It's not an inconvenience at all. It's postage-free, so there's nothing to it."
She encouraged businesses who might be interested in participating to call her at the high school at 834-7800.
"It's a great way to help save the earth and benefit our local schools," Stubber said of the program. "And that's a pretty good return."