BELTON — Belton High School senior Meredith Rowe won a college scholarship by writing about what she did with her garbage in Italy, Germany and her family’s garage in Belton.

Applicants for the $2,000 scholarship, sponsored by the city and Waste Management, the company that handles Belton’s waste services, wrote an essay about what sustainability means to them and their community.

The 2014 contest, held in April, invited high school seniors in Belton who had been accepted to a college, university or technical school to write a 500-word essay and submit letters of recommendation.

Rowe’s father is in the Army, and her family has been stationed overseas, so she wrote about her experiences recycling in Germany and Italy, as well as the United States.

Paul Romer, the city’s spokesman and one of three judges for the contest, said he considered writing an interesting essay about recycling conservation to be difficult, especially for someone in high school. Rowe, he said, managed to write a concise, interesting and informative essay.

“There were other strong applicants, but her writing was exquisite,” he said. “I’ve been associated with professional writers for two decades, and I don’t know of anyone who could write that well on that topic.”

Romer said he could tell from reading the essay that Rowe is someone who reads a lot, and he wasn’t surprised when he saw in her admission packet to the contest a letter of recommendation from the public library’s librarian.

Rowe described recycling in Germany as much stricter than that in the U.S. The Germans take their recycling seriously; waste to be recycled must be sorted and placed in its proper bin. Heavy penalties await people who don’t comply, she said during a telephone interview.

Italy takes a softer approach, inviting residents and visitors to recycle by conveniently placing recycling bins just about everywhere, she said. People in Italy were mostly encouraged to recycle glass.

Rowe described the way Americans recycle as opposed to people who live in the other countries where she stayed:

“People overseas recycle out of habit,” she said. “Americans have to think about it before they do it.”

Rowe added that as a final touch to her essay, she included information about her family’s successful effort to recycle kitchen scraps in their Belton garage, turning the waste into compost.

Rowe’s mother, Suzanne, said she was happy her daughter had won the contest because the family had been searching for ways to help pay Rowe’s college tuition.

Rowe has been accepted into the honors program at Texas A&M in College Station, where she intends to major in biology.

“I’m interested in medicine, but I don’t know if I want to be a people doctor or animal doctor,” she said.

Rowe accepted her award check at the Belton City Council meeting Tuesday.

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