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River Ridge graduate Angelica Millen created a mural and installed it on the fence at a Cherokee County recycling center.

Visitors to the Cherokee County Recycling Center will notice a unique piece of art that is made from recycled materials.

Angelica Millen, a freshman at the University of Georgia and a River Ridge High School graduate, wanted her Girl Scout Gold Award project to have a positive effect on the environment, and to inspire others to make a difference, too. So the summer after her senior year, the 18-year-old repurposed plastic bottle caps to create a mural for the center and spent volunteer hours educating the public on proper recycling.

Gold Award recipients are required to do a major service project that will have a lasting impact on the community, and to perform at least 80 service hours. There’s also a class and an interview process. To qualify for the award, high school scouts must complete either the Silver Award and a Journey project or two Journeys.

The artwork, though a simple design with a recycling symbol, was no small task. Some of the bottle caps had been collected from middle school. Millen enlisted the help of recycling center employees to find hundreds of caps in different colors. By the time she was finished, the work was made of more than 1,000 bottle caps.

“I love art and community service, so it was the perfect project for me,” Millen said.

The teen decided to educate the community on recycling after noticing a lack of participation among people she knew, she said.

“I’m very passionate about recycling, and I noticed that I would go to my friends’ house and they wouldn’t have a recycling bin. I would ask, ‘Why don’t you have a recycling bin?’ and they would say, ‘It’s too much effort,’ or they’d say, ‘I don’t know what to recycle,’” she said. “I found that if too many people are recycling wrong, they’ll take the whole neighborhood’s recycling and put it into waste. That’s not cool.”

Millen’s education efforts involved a presentation in downtown Woodstock with examples of what to do or not do with recycling. She brought visual examples of recyclables, including paper and milk cartons.

Those trying to reduce waste in landfills should rinse their recyclables, as waste disposal companies won’t accept dirty aluminum or plastic for recycling. Customers should also contact their service provider to find out their policy before attempting to recycle glass.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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