Nago makes an impact with battery and cellphone collection box

Youngster’s recycling station is situated at MI Thrift Shop.

Bowen Nago is lending an immense hand with environmental preservation one battery and cellphone at a time.

Spurred by a Make a Difference project introduced by teacher Kirsten Bourke, the current Islander Middle School sixth-grader leapt into action to bring a battery and cellphone collection box to Mercer Island.

After devising his plan last spring as a student in Bourke’s fifth-grade class at West Mercer Elementary, Nago began collecting batteries and toting them to a Kirkland recycling drop-off location. However, he aspired to set up a box on the Island so that residents in his own city could get involved with safely recycling their used items.

Nago contacted the city of Mercer Island with his idea, which was passed on to the city councilmembers and given the green light because they were so impressed with his plan. City staff brought Recology into the fold and Nago’s proposal was soon set in motion.

His collection box was unveiled in late September at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop’s main entrance and customers filled it to the brim multiple times in the initial few weeks with dry cell single-use batteries, rechargeable batteries and cellphones.

“Batteries have a lot of toxic material, like mercury, lead and nickel, which is very bad for the plants and animals in the environment,” Nago said. “It feels really good (to make an impact), because now people can drop off their batteries and old phones. Before, they would just throw them in the trash.”

While nodding toward her former student while the two were seated in Bourke’s fifth-grade classroom on a recent afternoon, the teacher noted: “I’m not surprised it’s filled up already. He’s a fantastic person and really cares about people and the environment and the community as a whole.”

As Bowen’s mother, Katherine, looked on with pride, she said that their family is big into recycling and that her son has gained insight into recycling and sustainability during his time with the Boy Scouts. She’s excited to see what will come next on his environmental protection docket.

Bowen, who plays baseball and chess, said he hasn’t thought of any new projects just yet, but would like to witness others get involved in environmental matters.

“The environment isn’t very good right now with climate change and all that pollution, so I think it will be good if we focus more on conserving and recycling,” he said.

Bourke said she and her students are impressed with how hard-working and inspirational Bowen brought his plan to fruition. People are grateful for his contribution to society, noted Bourke, adding that more students will follow their passions through Make a Difference projects again in the spring.

“It just shows the impact that children can have in our community when they put their minds to it. There’s nothing that they can’t do,” Bourke said.

As word of Bowen’s uplifting project has spread around town, a Mercer Island social media report concluded with the following sentence: “The city thanks Bowen for his great suggestion and civic involvement.”