Trick or Trash Spotlight: Lyndsie Dempsey of Clark Elementary

Last week I wrote about the results of the Trick or Trash 2020 campaign that took place throughout the month of October and, for many participants, continues now well into November.

Designed to help reduce the waste that accumulates every year around Halloween by providing safe and easy-to-assemble recycling boxes to schools and small businesses, which can be filled with discarded candy wrappers and other snack packaging, more than 730 schools and small businesses in all 50 U.S. states took part in Trick or Trash 2020.

To follow up on the campaign, I wanted to speak with one of the educators who took part in both this year’s and last year’s campaigns to get a perspective on how the Trick or Trash program plays out on the ground. I was thrilled to speak with Lyndsie Dempsey, a fourth-grade teacher at Clark Elementary in Paducah, Kentucky.

If you’re an educator or small business owner interested in taking part in Trick or Trash next year to inspire your community to recycle during Halloween, and year-round, read on!

Having participated in Trick or Trash last year, what drew you to Trick or Trash the first time around, and how did Trick or Trash 2020 differ from 2019?

I was drawn to Trick or Trash last year by its promise to help me promote recycling to my elementary school students. As a fourth-grade teacher and the Lighthouse coordinator at Clark Elementary, I was excited about the opportunity to get this Leadership Project into our school.

Last year, 100 percent of our Clark Elementary student body participated in Trick or Trash, and we were determined to reach this same milestone this year, despite the clear obstacles standing in our way due to the COVID-19 procedures in place at the school, as well as the fact that approximately 35 percent of students were participating in virtual learning.

Aside from the obvious safety measures we have in place this year compared to last, including ensuring that students are wearing masks and gloves, and washing their hands frequently, this year our in-person kids have been eating lunch in their classrooms, so we made the lunchroom aware of the need to keep their Trick or Trash boxes nearby.

We also placed a “drop off” Trick or Trash container outside of the school to make it easy for parents with students learning virtually to drop off their candy wrappers, as well as wrappers that students had collected from after school clubs and around their community, in a safe way. Some kids even wrote on local Facebook groups asking their neighborhood to save their candy wrappers and place them in their mailbox, for them to take to school.

What do your students enjoy most about Trick or Trash?

So many things! They really enjoy learning about what happens to the wrappers after they put them in the Trick or Trash recycling container. (They love it when we tell them all the things they can be recycled into, such as park benches, play sets, and even new candy wrappers!)

At the beginning of our Trick or Trash campaign this year I shared the lesson plans (provided by Rubicon and the National Wildlife Federation!) with our teachers each morning, then throughout the day we would do a quick informational study with our students telling them about the importance of recycling instead of sending items to the landfill, and how they can become better recyclers at home and school.

How do you teach the Trick or Trash lesson plan in school?

Day after day, more and more students are becoming aware of recycling and its benefits to our planet. What students have learned through this Leadership Project is how important recycling materials, such as our “trick or treat” trash, is to our economy.

We have been teaching them that recycling is vital to what is called the “circular economy,” a system that is designed to phase out pollution and waste and phase in products and solutions that have longer life spans and multiple uses. Not only is it important for students to understand the principles of “circularity,” but it is also motivating for them to know what new products can come from their own recycling efforts!

What are the most common questions that you get from students, parents, and other teachers about Trick or Trash?

The most common question I get from parents and other teachers is “How can we make Trick or Trash as easy as possible for our students?” To answer this I often send them the Rubicon and NWF lesson plans so they have this basic understanding themselves. This year we also provided a “Boo Bag” for kids through the Family Resource Center which contained children’s books, pencils, bookmarks, a water bottle, and other Halloween-themed treats. Also included in the “Boo Bag” was a sandwich bag containing the Trick or Trash Leadership Project instructions. We felt by providing this, we would encourage more families to participate, by including our parents and community to partner with us for Trick or Trash.

The most common question I get from students is “Can I recycle this?” To help answer this question, last year we created a poster board showing the different wrappers that can go into the box so they had examples of what could be accepted and they could decide for themselves. They are always excited to ask this question! They want to recycle as much as possible, but us teachers need to hold them back and teach them what can and can’t go into the box.

Finally, what was the most common candy wrapper in your Trick or Trash boxes?

I’d say M&Ms, closely followed by Snickers and Sour Patch Kids! We have a basket in each classroom that goes around after lunch and at the end of the day. The student holding the basket loves to say “I’m coming to collect your Trick or Trash!”


Katie Kinnear is Sr. Manager of Social Media and Engagement at Rubicon and was the inspiration behind creating the Trick or Trash campaign. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.

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