The exchange rate on materials usually determines a recyclable's worth. In the Valley, one program lets kids swap aluminum cans for books.

The recycling center in Palmer came up with the program to reward kids for going green. Staff at Valley Community for Recycling Solutions (VCRS) give children books in exchange for a bag of aluminum cans, but the program helps the recycling center, too.

This year alone, VCRS has recycled more than 40 tons of books that get dropped off from thrift stores or large book sales. The only way to recycle them is to rip out the pages from the bindings and shred the stories.

The only way to recycle books is to rip the pages from the bindings.

“Everybody loves to read and they don’t want to see the books ripped up,” said Jill Farris, who does education and outreach for the facility.

Farris said many of the books are in good condition and some are still in the packaging when they arrive. Staff sort through to find the literary leftovers in the best shape to go to a new home.

The kids who visit on field trips also get a math lesson the cost of reusing materials.

“You can recycle aluminum cans indefinitely,” Farris explained. “For every dollar it costs to produce new aluminum cans from bauxite through the mining process, it only costs 5 cents to make the same number of cans from recycled aluminum.”

At Goose Bay Elementary School, first-grade teacher Courtney Wilhelm is using a classic Dr. Seuss book to teacher her students about preserving our earth.

“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees,” she read.

The Lorax shows them what can happen when people pollute the environment.

“If you cut down all the trees, animals lose their food and they have to go to a different place,” said six-year-old Clare Mobley.

The class will take a field trip to the landfill later this week where Wilhelm hopes they see the impact of what they throw away.

“The mounds of trash that are there and just really to get that awareness of, ‘Oh wow, when I’m throwing that piece of paper away, when I’m throwing that water bottle away, this is where it’s going and this is what it’s doing to the environment,’” she said.

The class will also swing by VCRS to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

“They’re learning who they are at such an early age and they all connect with taking care of the earth,” Farris said.

Teachers or parents interested in participating in the Cans for Books program can call VCRS at 907-745-5544.

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