At the beginning of each school year, a flyer is sent home indicating the official start date of the year-long contest, and the parameters for participation. One point is awarded for every qualifying piece of eWaste a student turns in, such as an ink cartridge, cell phone, or laptop. If a student brings in an item from a parent’s or relative’s workplace, and includes a business card, a one-time bonus of five points is awarded per student, per year.

Students not only jump at the chance to see who brings in the most items for their classroom, but also enjoy seeing who really ups the ante by including items from a parent’s or relative’s business. The winning classrooms receive an ice cream social with more than enough candy toppings to go around.

The competition is especially fierce at the beginning of the school year and after winter break. A note is sent home in December, as family members are likely to get electronics for the holidays. Similarly, reminders to collect eWaste over the summer are sent home before June dismissal. It’s great to see the initial surge of classroom rankings in September, because no one knows who collected items throughout the summer. Progress is tracked on a whiteboard in the computer lab, so students can monitor their class recycling standings continually.

Parents want to see their children and school succeed, so they get into the competitive spirit as well. One parent collected more than 800 cell phones after visiting four Verizon stores, and others assisted in placing recycling boxes at local grocery and printing stores. FundingFactory recycling has become a community effort, and people seem to enjoy contributing items to the kids for the overall betterment of the district.

Proof that the program works

With previous fundraisers, we were never able to raise enough money in an academic year to purchase all of our needed technology, and if we didn’t use the money we raised, we’d lose it to our general school fund. FundingFactory tracks and saves our money, allowing rollovers from year to year.

Since 2002, our two elementary schools have raised a combined $25,814. With this money, we were able to purchase $15,000 in software, 16 color printers, ink and toner cartridges, a projector, a digital camera, 350 headphones, surge protectors, computer speakers, student incentives, and computer lab supplies.  Student learning is enhanced each and every day from the proceeds collected.

The Waugh School District, during California’s fiscal crisis, has had to forgo technology upgrades for years on end. Since we began participating in FundingFactory’s eWaste recycling program, technology purchases have been expedited—and students have benefited throughout the district.

With my focus on collecting eWaste and facilitating our schools’ fundraising efforts, colleagues and friends have dubbed me “The Recycle Queen,” and it’s a moniker I wear with pride.

Diana Utroske is the technology specialist for the Waugh Elementary School District in Petaluma, Calif.