Upon first glance, one phone book might not appear to be of much value.

It's a good thing, then, that local elementary students were wise enough to know not to judge a book by its cover.

Thanks to their efforts, 22,702 old phone books were collected through the Carbon County Outdated Telephone Directory Recycling Program.

About 450 students in 12 elementary schools participated in the program. The phone books weighed 39,501 pounds, or 19.75 tons.

Carbon County Commissioners, along with 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 $100 prizes donated by the Jim Thorpe National Bank & First Northern Bank & Trust to the top five student collectors in the county.

At Towamensing Elementary, Principal Christine Steigerwalt told the students "we're here today to celebrate the recycling program."

Duane Dellecker, director, Carbon County Solid Waste Department, presented Outstanding Recycler Award to students Cole Klein and Raegan Nemeth. Cole collected 3,275 books, the second most in the program, while Raegan compiled 2,151 books, third most in the program.

Raegan, who has garnered several awards through the program over the years, said she enjoys the program a great deal.

"I want to thank the people who saved the phone books for us," Raegan said. "And for how many phone books I got."

Dellecker then presented an award to Towamensing Elementary pupil Kayla Cooper, who collected the Oldest Phone Book, a 1964 directory.

Afterward, Dellecker said "I want to thank every one of you for helping make the phone book recycling program so successful."

He then noted that the phone books are used by local farmers for animal bedding.

"We can recycle so many different things," Dellecker said. "We should recycle as much as possible."

Riley Nothstein, a student at Shull-David Elementary School, received the Outstanding Recyler Award after she collected the most phone books, with 5,443.

Payton Lesher, a student at S.S. Palmer Elementary School, was fourth with 1,003 books; and Frank Willis, a student at Weatherly Elementary School, was fifth with 1,001 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 Logan Graver, Mahoning Elementary (921 phone books); Emma Sherer, East Penn Elementary (456); Alexis James, L.B. Morris Elementary (216); Brady Hahn, Franklin Elementary (208); Blaine Dart, St. Joe's Regional Academy (152); Chasity Kibler, Parkside Education Center (108); Victoria Keiper, St. John Neumann Elementary (49); and Luke Behler, S.S. Peter & Paul Elementary (34).

Shull-David Elementary School was recognized with a Certificate of Achievement as the school with the highest collection ratio, with an average of 18.37 phone books collected per student.

The elementary schools, and their collection totals, are as follows: Towamensing Elementary, Palmerton Area School District, $6,731; Shull David Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, $5,767; S.S. Palmer Elementary, Palmerton Area School District, 2,383; Mahoning Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, 1,913; Weatherly Elementary, Weatherly School District, 1,912; Franklin Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, 1,521; East Penn Elementary, Lehighton Area School District, 753; L.B. Morris Elementary, Jim Thorpe School District, 704; St. Joseph's Regional Academy, Jim Thorpe School District, 542; Parkside Education Center, Palmerton Area School District, 257; St. Peter & Paul, Lehighton Area School District, 116; and St. John Neumann Elementary, Palmerton, 113.

Since the program started in 1996, over 370,000 old phone books have been collected.