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Recycling initiative at Keene’s Crossing Elementary turns into race for new playground
Southwest Orange Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 5 years ago

Recycling initiative at Keene’s Crossing Elementary turns into race for new playground

by: Catherine Kerr

PLAYGROUND-koch class

WINDERMERE — After collecting 190,090 metallic drink pouches, Keene’s Crossing Elementary is currently in first place in a nationwide contest to win a new playground entirely made of recycled pouches. 

The contest is hosted by TerraCycle, a New Jersey company dedicated to recycling and environmental awareness. TerraCycle offers a program called the Drink Pouch Brigade, in which schools or other groups collect Capri Sun or Honest Kids drink pouches and ship them to TerraCycle, which then up-cycles the pouches into various products, such as pencil cases and backpacks.

Keene’s Crossing joined the Drink Pouch Brigade in fall of 2012, long before there even was the potential for a new playground. Connie Koch, a VPK teacher, got the school to join the program because TerraCycle offered 2 cents per drink pouch.

“It gives the kids the opportunity to do something good for the environment and good for their school,” Koch said. “It makes me excited to see them working as a team for something good in so many ways.”

The school has used the money earned from the program for events and other rewards. But if Keene’s Crossing can reach 200,000 pouches by December — and before any other school in the nation — it will receive the grand prize: a TerraCycle playground.

“We’re really close to getting it much earlier than that,” Koch said.

Koch sends the pouches to TerraCycle in shipments of a few hundred to a few thousand. She has been sending smaller, more frequent shipments recently, to maintain the school’s first-place status in the contest. 

The playground would be installed by the end of the school year as an additional area to the current playground. The school currently has about 1,000 students, and they could use some extra space at recess, Koch said.

To motivate the students to collect more pouches, Keene’s Crossing has organized a friendly competition among classes. The top three classes that gather the most pouches each quarter earn a pizza or popsicle party. 

The community is welcome to help Keene’s Crossing reach its goal. Take used drink pouches to the school’s administration office at 5240 Keene’s Pheasant Drive, Windermere.


After receiving the drink pouches, TerraCycle cleans them and melts them into a plastic material that can be remolded into new products. The grand-prize playground will be constructed with this material.

If Keene’s Crossing Elementary wins the contest, it will win a playground identical to one from a previous contest, shown above. It features a slide, monkey bars, a mini rock climbing wall, tunnels and other popular equipment. 

Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].

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