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Recycling bottles now part of SHS sporting events

Caroline Kent, founder of the Conservation Club at Shelbyville High School, has completed a project to placerecycling bins for plastic bottles at sporting events at McKeand Stadium and Garrett Gymnasium. With roughly 10,000 bottles sold during SHS sporting events, Kent hopes to reduce the number of recyclable objects being discarded into regular trash cans.

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

Recycling is a part of Caroline Kent’s life.

So much so she noticed something missing at Shelbyville High School football games during her first visit as a freshman in 2017 – there were no recycling bins for plastic bottles. 

In the school? Yes. But at Golden Bears’ sporting events? No.

“I knew we had recycling inside the school and I knew we had a big recycling dumpster, so I was wondering why we didn’t have them at the football games. So I knew it was a possibility and that got the idea rolling last year,” said Kent, now a 15-year-old sophomore that has founded a Conservation Club at the school.

The club’s first meeting drew approximately 15 people, but more were interested as word spread.

“The goal of the Conservation Club is to bring conservationism into our community and into our school by doing projects like recycling bins and cleaning up the outdoor lab,” said Kent. “We have a lot of projects ahead of us.”

Kent put the wheels in motion to get recycling bins for SHS sporting events in late 2017. Her first meeting was with the school’s head custodian, Scott Wheeler. And what she found out, with assistance from Chartwells Food Service, who supplies the concession stands at SHS, is that 10,000 bottles total are sold in one season at Golden Bears’ football and basketball games. 

“That helped us decide how many bins we would need and what that would cost,” explained Kent. “Once we found out how much money we would need, we went to some donors and not-for-profits.”

That’s when some frustration set it. The project either was not big enough in scope or too costly in price to get proper funding.

“So we had to look to private donors and foundations, and we asked (CGS Services, Inc.) and they were more than happy to help,” said Kent.

In fact, CGS put a rush order in to get the recycling bottles designed and ready to go for Shelbyville’s 2018 football season opener on Aug. 17. However, Mother Nature has not been kind to the Conservation Club.

A lightning strike was blamed for taking out some of the lights at Shelbyville’s McKeand Stadium so the season opener was moved to Greensburg. The Golden Bears finally returned home after two more road games, to a soggy home opener last Friday that limited the crowd in attendance. 

The rain also postponed the recognition the club and CGS was to receive before the start of the game. That will take place before this week’s Homecoming game against Greenfield-Central. Weather is not expected to play a factor and the Homecoming festivities should ensure a large crowd is in attendance.

The club will have tall recyclable bins shaped like bottles sitting next to trash cans throughout McKeand Stadium. And club members will be reminding fans to make the choice to recycle their bottles rather than toss them in a standard trash can.

Finally, Kent’s vision of collecting and recycling thousands of bottles can begin in earnest.

“Before I started this, I thought it was more of an adult job ... something I would do when I grow up,” she said. “I didn’t realize I have the resources to do this, and it kind of inspires me to do more.”

From imagination to fruition, it has taken nearly 10 months to make it happen at her school.

“I wouldn’t say it was easy, it was a process definitely,” said Kent. “Now that I’ve done it, I feel like I can do more. And I tell my friends about it and they want to do something in the community.”

The recycling bins will be visible at all Golden Bears football and basketball games this season. And if it goes well, there is the possibility of expanding to other sporting events at SHS as well.

The Conservation Club meets once month at the school, at 7:45 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month. Chemistry teacher Chris Lux is the teacher sponsor for the club.