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The Art of Recycling

Indonesia, July 3, 2003

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    A student uses an empty soy milk box for an art project. The boxes, part of a Mercy Corps program to deliver soy milk to students in Indonesia, are being recycled into various projects at schools where art supplies are often limited. Photo: Mercy Corps Indonesia Photo:

It all started from an idea from Ms. Djusmarti Hadar, the principal the principal of primary school, SD 39, Penggalangan, sub-regency South Padang in West Sumatra, Indonesia.

This school, along with over 1450 others, is participating in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and funded Susu Sekolah - or School Milk - program. Through this program, over 310,000 school-aged children receive a carton of soymilk fortified with vitamins and minerals three times per week.

Ms. Hadar's idea was to recycle the milk box materials as handicraft material for the students. While in others schools proper disposal of the milk cartons has been a challenge, in School #39 the teachers and students have found an innovative solution to the waste issue while providing an outlet for artistic expression within the classroom.

The teachers have already used the recycled milk boxes and cartons to keep letters and other documents and also as teaching equipment for mathematics. The recycling process for the milk boxes starts after the students have finished drinking the soymilk. The milk box is opened and rinsed with clean water, then dried. The box now may be transformed into a piece of art. The most common creations are houses, car toys, home accessories, mats, and geometrical shapes. To add to the motivation of the students, the activity now is included in the school curriculum as a skill subject.

The teachers said that they try to develop the students' imaginations and creativity to transform waste into goods, for the very least to maintain the quality of their own environment.

The Mercy Corps School Feeding Program targets primary school children in three provinces of the island of Sumatra. With resources provided by the USDA and ACDI/VOCA, the program is implemented with a local partner, Yayasan Bina Putra Sejahtera who has over 15 years of school feeding program implementation experience.

The children drink the chocolate-flavored soymilk during their morning break, contributing to their overall nutritional status by providing them with essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron and also providing them with energy to better participate in their education. In addition, provision of school milk is an incentive to parents to send their children to school, leading to a reduction in overall absenteeism and improving retention of children from one academic year to the next.