Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spring Cleaning: What Can I Do With All These Transparencies?

I've been going through all of the files I've kept since I started teaching, deciding what to digitize before recycling or what can be recycled right away. One thing I didn't realize is how many used overhead transparencies I have stockpiled.

I'm not entirely sure why I kept most of them, besides the pack rat mentality I inherited from my mother. This is the philosophy where I tell myself "I might need this someday," so it gets neatly filed away somewhere for safe keeping. Practically speaking, at the time, I kept the materials to use the next year so that my life might be a little bit easier. Of course, with my constant changing of schools, subjects and grade levels, this was no longer practical.

If I couldn't use it, I still reasoned, I could give it to other teachers. Perhaps one day I could compile some of my ideas into a book. I suppose the main reason was the desire to remember--to preserve the highs, lows and everything in between for myself and anyone else who was willing to listen.

Back to the transparencies. I've thrown away hundreds, perhaps thousands of these over the years, but I've kept just as many. As I began this spring cleaning project, I wondering whether they could be recycled. My research revealed that while I couldn't put them in my curbside bin, there was someone willing to take them and recycle them: the company that makes most of them, 3M.

3M recycles your transparencies into reusable polyester. Mark your name and/or organization and mail them to:

3M Recycle Program
c/o Gemark
99 Stevens Lane
Exeter, PA 18643

I think I should be able to fit what I have into a USPS Flat Rate Box and ship it out to 3M. It might cost a little bit to send it, but I feel so much better knowing six year old transparencies covered with 8th grade social studies TAKS questions will get a second life as something useful.

Now that you know there's a recycling program, perhaps you can get your school to pay to ship your used transparencies out instead of paying the costs out of pocket as I am. Enlist the help of your school's recycling/green/sustainability club if that seems like an impossibility.

Outside of sending your used transparencies to 3M, you could get a little creative and reuse them in a far different way than you imagined. Take a look at the ideas on How Can I Recycle This? and sculptor Tara Donovan's work for more inspiration.