Becky Robinson is shown, center, with (front, from left) Kaiden Corbin and Morgan Nagel and (back) Persayus Richey and Vanessa Smith In 2015. They are sitting in Robinson’s trailer loaded with items to be taken to a recycling center for cash. The money is used for various programs at Swaney Elementary.

If there’s one time of the year that is special for Becky Robinson at Swaney Elementary, it’s the day the T-shirts arrive.

The shirts, which carry an anti-bullying theme, are part of the tangible payoff of a long effort by students, staff, parents and other volunteers to collect items for recycling.

In the past year, the students collected more than 30,000 pounds of metal and aluminum cans, which brought over $3,000 to the school for their bullying prevention t-shirts.

Some 600 T-shirts were made, all with a special design that is voted on by the students. There are 450 to 475 students there, along with about 70 staff and volunteers.

“It’s a fun thing to do with kids and seeing all the adults involved,” said Robinson, who is the building para and a family engagement educator.

A recycling club at the school with more than 40 students meets twice a month, year-round, to discuss their progress and come up with special projects, such as collecting and repurposing old crayons.

The recycling effort has been going on about 15 years and Robinson said it should continue.


While other schools undertake recycling, Swaney is unique in the amount of different items it collects, which Robinson puts on a black trailer she owns and takes to the recycling center.

The trailer recently showed the widespread nature of what it takes, including a lawnmower and a tailgate from a pickup truck along with aluminum cans.

It also will take appliances, such as washers and dryers and water heaters along with guttering and plumbing pipes.

The key is that the item has to be made mostly with metal and glass does need to be removed.

There are items they won’t take, including those with coolants, such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning units and microwave ovens.

And keep the trash, as it’s not a waste-collection service.

Citizens often call Robinson, saying they have something the school could use.

“I’ve met some wonderful people along the way,” she said.

Robinson stresses that the program is all run on money from the recycling.

“We don’t use any taxpayers’ funds,” she said. “It’s all raised on our own.”

It requires a lot of work to gather the materials, and even more effort when the price paid drops, making it necessary to gather more for the same return.


During Earth Week, students collected about 250 egg cartons to donate to the Kansas Humane Society or to the Special Education Department.

Also, there were over 100 milk jugs that were used for an art project for summer LatchKey, four bags of newspapers that were given to the Kansas Humane Society and one bag of bubble wrap used by the Special Education Department.

Their efforts also helped people in other countries after they collected 42 pairs of glasses that Derby optometrist Dr. Laura Branstetter took on a mission trip.

Sixteen bikes were collected for Bike Walk Wichita. Members of that group repair and restore the bicycles for children and adults in need of a bicycle.

This year, a new project is to help people get smoke detectors in their homes.

The club passed out over 300 door hangers and held a Sound the Alarm event in partnership with the city of Derby, Red Cross and the Derby Fire Department, and helped install around 135 smoke alarms.

Robinson, who has a passion for recycling along with helping to guide and educate young people, said she’s enjoyed seeing the results that the work has led to during the years.

“It’s been a neat process.”


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