Just because something may appear to have outlived its usefulness doesn't mean it's past its shelf life.

Take, for example, the 27,225 old phone books that were collected as part of the Carbon County Outdated Telephone Directory Recycling Program.

About 600 students in 14 elementary schools participated in the endeavor. The phone books weigh in at about 45,765 pounds, or 22.88 tons.

In recognition of that feat, Carbon County Commissioners and the Carbon County Department of Solid Waste visited the participating schools on Friday to personally award prizes.

Awarded were one Certificate of Achievement to the school with the highest student collection ratio; five Outstanding Recycler awards, along with savings bonds or equivalent, donated by Jim Thorpe National Bank (three $100 savings bonds or equivalent), and First Northern Bank & Trust (two $100 savings bonds or equivalent); Outstanding Recycler Certificates of Merit to the top student collectors in schools not receiving other awards; and a certificate to the student who brought in the oldest dated telephone directory.

Towamensing Elementary Principal Christine Steigerwalt told the students there were special guests on hand to share some exciting news.

Duane Dellecker, Carbon County Director of Solid Waste, said the phone books went to a local farmer for animal bedding.

Carbon County Commissioners Chairman Wayne Nothstein told the students they should make every effort to recycle.

"There's nothing worse than wasting our natural resources," Nothstein said. "Recycling is very, very, important to our environment."

Nothstein then presented the Outstanding Recycler Award to Brayden Kline, a third-grade student at Towamensing Elementary, who finished first with 4,903 books collected.

The son of John and Amy Kline, Brayden collected 3,214 books last year, when he also won the award.

"It was pretty tough doing it," said Brayden, 9. "I had to help put them in the big truck, and it give me a little bit of back pain."

John Kline said he and his wife are proud of their son.

"We're glad to help the school," John Kline said. "It is a lot work for recycling, but we're glad it's going toward a good cause."

Carbon County Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard was impressed by the school building.

"This is a beautiful facility," Gerhard said. "It's something to be very proud of."

Gerhard then presented an Outstanding Recycler Award to Raegen Nemeth, a second-grade student at Towamensing, who finished third overall with 2,204 books.

Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek praised all those who played a role in the program.

"I'd like to thank the Carbon County Department of Solid Waste, and everyone else who was involved, for making this program so successful," O'Gurek said. "I'd like to congratulate everyone here at Towamensing for being teammates and making this successful."

O'Gurek then presented an award to Brock Bollinger, a third-grade student at Towamensing, who collected the oldest phone book, a 1950 directory.

Dellecker told the school he was proud of them for their efforts.

"I'd like to thank every one of you for participating in this contest," Dellecker said. "You do a good job, work hard, and who knows, maybe next year, we'll see you again at this contest."

Steigerwalt thanked the staff, students, and their parents for their assistance with the program.

Courtney Kovatch, a student at Ss. Peter & Paul School in Lehighton, finished second with 2,791 books; Nicholas Pleban, a student at Weatherly Elementary School, was fourth with 2,104 books; and Makayla Nothstein, a student at Shull-David Elementary School in Lehighton, was fifth with 1,959 books.

Certificates of Merit for Honorable Mention were awarded to the top collector in each school that did not receive other awards.

Those went to Ty Graver, Mahoning Elementary School (834 phone books); Brook Sheckler, Franklin Elementary School (520); Blaine Dart, St. Joe's Regional Academy (447); Wyatt Sherer, East Penn Elementary School (339); Devin Knappenberger, S.S. Palmer Elementary School (303); Thomas Greco, Panther Valley Elementary School (250); Austin Novak, Parkside Elementary School (241); Tanner Gilliar, Penn-Kidder Elementary School (142); and Taylor Craigie, L.B. Morris Elementary School (98).

Ss. Peter & Paul Elementary School in Lehighton was recognized with a Certificate of Achievement as the school with the highest student collection ratio, with an average of 39.62 phone books collected per student.

The elementary schools and their collection totals are as follows: Towamensing Elementary, Palmerton Area School District, 8,889; Weatherly Elementary, Weatherly Area School District, 3,569; Ss. Peter & Paul, Lehighton Area School District, 3,130; Shull-David Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, 2,542; Mahoning Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, 1,999; Panther Valley Elementary, Panther Valley School District, 1,892; Franklin Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, 1,509; St. Joseph's Regional Academy, Jim Thorpe, 1,255; S.S. Palmer Elementary, Palmerton Area School District, 740; L.B. Morris Elementary, Jim Thorpe Area School District, 664; East Penn Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, 144; and St. John Neumann Regional School, Palmerton Area School District, 74.

Since the program began in 1996, 350,981 old phone books have been collected.