RAFT Colorado: Waste Diversion With a Purpose: Recycling Materials for Education

BY ON FEBRUARY 1, 2017

Shaping the future of education, by recycling.

On average, teachers spend about $500 of their own money on supplies for their classroom and students, and many companies and manufacturers unknowingly throw away items that could help alleviate the problem. So, what is the solution?

RAFT, or Resource Area for Teaching, all started because teachers typically don’t have all of the resources that they need to make hands-on learning happen. Whether it’s a lack of materials, time or access to ideas and training, there is a gap in the system, and RAFT is working to bridge it.

It’s amazing to see what a repurposed material can do in the life of a child
Nate B. | RAFT Colorado

For a little more than six years, RAFT has been dedicated to supporting education initiatives. They currently serve over 3,250 teachers, and impact more than 250,000 students in the greater Denver area, by supplying them with recycled educational materials.

Turning Recyclable Material Into Teaching Materials

As of the end of 2016, RAFT has diverted over 175,000 cubic feet, around 90 truckloads of material, from landfills. Most materials that are taken in by RAFT are end-product items donated by companies. Stephanie Welsh, the Executive Director of RAFT says, “Some of our favorites are unused bottles or containers, paper, manufacturing byproducts from Kong dog toys and more! Businesses are always surprised at what we are able to use.”

RAFT takes a variety of materials, from hardware supplies to wire and magnets, that are all used to create education materials and stock their shoppable 29,000 square foot warehouse.

Items RAFT Recycles

  • Fabric and Foam Remnants
  • Plastics
  • Party Supplies
  • CD Jewel Cases
  • Promotional Items ( buttons, key rings, etc.)
  • Bottle Caps
  • Office Supplies
  • Packing Peanuts
  • Plexiglass
  • Rubber
  • Vinyl
  • Corks

These items are used in Activity Kits like Brace Yourself, which gets students thinking about how earthquakes can affect building structures.

Upcycling for Education

Not only are upcycled materials available to teachers to use in their classrooms, but RAFT also puts them to use as activity kits for students.

brace yourself raft activity kit

RAFT activity kits are an excellent gateway for teachers who want to create hands-on learning experiences but aren’t sure where to begin. We currently offer over 70 different activity kits, and each one contains step-by-step instructions, materials needed for an activity, an explanation of the academic principles and resources for further learning.
Stephanie Welsh | Executive Director, RAFT Colorado

Educational upcycling projects take center stage at RAFT. One of their standout upcycling projects is a totem pole created by middle school students using cardboard cores from green strapping tape. During the project, students “learned about the cultural significance of totem poles for Native Americans, as well as what characteristics different animals embodied and stories that were told about them,” Christine explains.

To complete the project, students were divided into four groups and created the animals the totem pole using papier-mâché and paint.

Start Inspiring Your Students with RAFT’s Recycled Material Kits

Whether educators are looking for lesson plan ideas, supplies or hands-on training, RAFT has the resources and the staff to ensure they can create an engaging classroom. See if RAFT has a location near you, or get inspired and start re-purposing items for your own creative projects.

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Denver. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great organization, let us know in the comments!