PONTIAC -- Pontiac Township High School ecology students have won a national environmental award for an ongoing recycling project.
"I feel really good about it, and I think it's amazing how you can change the environment for the better and show people how to do it," said junior Amber White, 18.
The group won the President's Environmental Youth Award through the Environmental Protection Agency. The award honors the students' work with the Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal program, which encourages people to dispose of unused or expired medication at specified drop-off points rather than to simply throw them down the sink.
The project started in early 2008 in teacher Paul Ritter's ecology class. The class has partnered with the city and retailers before the idea spread elsewhere. Ritter said more than 100,000 pounds of drugs have been collected in Illinois alone and P2D2 programs have been developed in 12 states.
"It is such an amazing feeling to know that students across America are working so hard in an environmental area," said Ritter. "It's so rewarding to know that all of their hard work and efforts are being recognized at this high a level."
Ritter said trace amounts of improperly disposed medications are found in rivers and drinking water supplies, harming wildlife and potentially people.
One winner is selected from each of U.S. EPA's 10 regions, and each winner is invited to attend a award ceremony in Washington, D.C.
"I feel pretty good about it, and it's encouraging to know that we can step up and do what is right," said junior Bethany Guelde, 16.