WTOP Top Kids: Alexandria 5th-grader keeps glass recycling going during pandemic

Emily Holland, of Alexandria, fills the trailer she pulls with her bicycle with recycling from neighbors. (Courtesy the Holland family)

When glass recycling pickup stopped in one Alexandria, Virginia, neighborhood, a business-savvy fifth-grader found a way to help her community and the environment — and get paid doing it.

Fort Hunt Elementary student Emily Holland started her business around mid-April.

“I noticed that a lot of glass had been going into landfills and trash instead of recycling, and it takes glass a really long time to disintegrate,” Holland said.

“So I thought, I could pick up people’s glass for a really low price. And then I would drop it off at the glass recycling center every Saturday or so.”

Holland said her neighbors thought it was a good idea and her mom helped her put up an article on the social networking site Nextdoor.

“Some of the neighbors signed up for it right away. I’m still getting a few new customers some weeks. So that’s pretty fun. I think I have about 18 or so customers so far, actually,” Holland said.

Her customers leave their glass at the end of the driveway or by the curb. Holland then goes around on her bike, with a trailer and bin attached, and collects the glass.

“They will attach $1, or if they want to pay for a few weeks ahead, they’ll attach like $4 or $5. I’ll pick up their glass and I’ll put it in the trailer, then I’ll keep biking around,” she said. “And once I’m done, I’ll load the glass into the garage. And later that day, my dad and I will go drop it off.”

The money is certainly nice, but Holland is also working to help the environment. She recently took part in a creek cleanup.

“We found a lot of glass bottles there. So we just added that to the load of glass that we already had that week and dropped that off, too,” she said.

Holland wants people to learn from her story, as well, because unrecycled glass “just floats around in rivers, or it just gets stuck at the side of the road. And people will, like, just leave it there. And it just sits and sits and some animals might try to eat it, or a car might run over it.”

“And then it just sits there forever.”

She also hopes to inspire other kids.

“Well, sometimes people will say, ‘You can’t do this just because you’re a kid.’ I say you should be able to … It’s even better if you are a kid because you can see it from a kid’s point of view,” Holland said.

“You’re also shorter than most adults, so you can probably see the glass on the ground better. And just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you can’t help the environment or help anyone. It actually probably means more to the people around you if you’re a kid helping the environment.”

This article is part of WTOP’s TOP Kids program, where kids in the D.C. area are recognized for the amazing things they do. The winners are awarded $500. The program is sponsored by Northwest Federal Credit Union. Nominate a TOP Kid you know here.

WTOP’s Melissa Howell contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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