Kevin Williams was stumped.
So was Denisha Joseph.
Gary Jones, too.
Sugg Middle School’s green house was stacked with recyclable bottles. A small mountain of industrial sized plastic bags, bulging with every sort of plastic bottle, were piled to the roof.
How many bottles were there?
The seventh-graders shrugged.
“I wouldn’t even try to guess,” said Williams, 14.
“Three thousand,” said Joseph, 13.
“Three million,” said Jones, 13.
Their world geography teacher figured it was somewhere in between.
“Five hundred thousand,” said Shannon DeGaetano, who ought to know.
It was her idea for her students to start the collection last August as part of EdVantage, one of the school’s strategic initiatives.
Seven months later?
“The principal will be glad to get his greenhouse back,” DeGaetano said.
Any day now the city of Bradenton’s recycling crew will come to the rescue.
“Right now people only recycle 10 percent of the plastic bottles we use and the rest end up in landfills,” she said. “These won’t.”
After the effort her students put into this endeavor, the bottles deserve better.
Like being made into a fleece-like material for jackets.
“Twenty-one bottles make one jacket, so there’s probably enough for 1,000 in here,” DeGaetano said. “We got the kids to think beyond themselves, thinking not only about the environment, but about making jackets for kids who don’t have them.”
The seventh-graders were ever resourceful.
“Me and my mom walk a lot,” said Samantha Wade, 14. “Whenever I saw a bottle and I picked it up, she’d ask why? I said, ‘For Miss D.’ Now she’s doing it, too.”
Loujeanna Michel, 13, scoured her neighborhood.
“I got them on the road, off the sidewalks,” she said.
Moises Fandino, 13, had a plan, too. “I waited until I had six bags full and dad would bring me to school,” he said.
DeGaetano? She recycles at home, but brought in nary a bottle.
“This was the kids’ project and I wanted to see what they could do,” she said. “I was beyond proud.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or email him at vmannix@ bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.