Truckloads of old phone books will have new life as bedding for animals, thanks to a project of the Carbon County Department of Solid Waste.

Every year, students are asked by Duane Dellecker, director, to collect unused and outdated phone books for a contest to see which student and school can collect the most outdated books.

Outstanding winners were recognized Friday for their collecting efforts.

Gathering the most phone books was Gabriel Henry, a student at S.S. Palmer Elementary School in Palmerton, who collected 6,119 books. Gabriel also credited his grandparents, parents and their friends for helping.

He was congratulated by Carbon County Commissioners William O'Gurek and Wayne Nothstein and was awarded a $100 bond from First National Bank of Palmerton, presented by Wendy Horvath, marketing; and Ann David-Shupp, marketing director.

The second highest collector was Ty Graver, a student at Mahoning Elementary School, who brought in $2,892 books. He was presented a $100 savings bond by Jim Thorpe National Bank.

Third place was Nicolas Pleban, Weatherly Elementary School, who collected 1,221 books and received a bond from Jim Thorpe National Bank.

Fourth place was Derek Hauser, also of Weatherly Elementary School, 1,113 phone books. He received a bond from First National Bank of Palmerton.

Fifth place was Hailey Anthony of Shull David Elementary School, who collected 600 phone books. She received a bond from Jim Thorpe National Bank.

Honorable mention were, Gavin Sherer, East Penn Elementary School, 550 phone books; Brayden Kline, Towamensing Elementary School, 283 books; Caine Carpenter, Franklin Elementary School, 241 books; Evan Dart, L.B. Morris Elementary School, 132 books; Jasmine Mooney, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School, 89 books; and Giovanna Digilio, St. Joseph Regional School, 74 phone books.

Students were presented a recycling t-shirt, frisbee, ruler made from recycled milk cartons and a yo-yo.

Dellecker said that phone books are more sanitary than straw. The process used to create paper heats the wood pulp to the point that most, if not all bacteria is eliminated. Also, phone books shredded into animal bedding is four to six times more absorbent than straw. Plus phone books decompose in the fields in a matter of weeks compared to months and months it takes for straw to decompose. And the phone books are free.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone," he said. "The recycling markets are down substantially. This partnership creates an environment whereby Carbon County does not have to pay to dispose of the phone books and the farmer gets a superior project at no cost."