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What Do Plastic Bags and a Bench Have in Common?
Wednesday, 13 January 2016
| County News & Features | | | 0 Comments

More than 60,000 plastic bags were collected and recycled in order to earn a bench made of recycled plastic that now sits at the Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center. Employees from 10 county agencies volunteered to collect the bags over a six-month period as part of the Trex Community Challenge Program.

The rules for earning a bench state that an organization must collect 500 pounds of plastic film material, which includes grocery bags, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, ice bags, produce bags, bubble wrap, cereal bags, plastic wrap, re-sealable sandwich bags and salt bags. It takes to about 40,500 plastic bags to reach the 500-pound mark.

On average, a 30-gallon trash bag holds about 650 plastic bags and weighs about eight pounds, according to a Trex flier outlining how the program works. The 60,000 bags collected from the county totaled 747 pounds, said Prince William County Environmental Specialist Jennifer Boeder. “We started the program, and people started getting involved. We ended up surpassing their requirements of how much plastic we needed to recycle to get a bench.”

Boeder said that volunteers weighed each large trash bag and reported the number to Trex before taking them to local grocery stores for recycling. “We talked with several of the grocery store managers and told them we wanted to bring a lot of bags to recycle. They all said it wasn’t a problem.”

Boeder said it also wasn’t a problem gathering enough bags to earn a bench, and that the employees would take the challenge again. “We promoted a little bit within the county through our Environmental Council and our Safety and Health Council. It’s become more and more popular as people realize there’s another place they can take their plastic bags. If we have bins at work, they remember to bring them here.”

The next bench is slated to go to the Prince William County Animal Shelter, Boeder said.

Trex is a company that manufactures and sells outdoor decking that is made of recycled plastic. Trex Spokeswoman, Stephanie Hicks, said taking plastic bags to grocery stores is the best way to recycle them. “This channel keeps the film the cleanest, with the lowest amount of contamination.”

Hicks said that the benches cost about $500 each, including shipping, and that the company sends out about 125 benches nationally each year. Hicks said that plastic bags and film make up 50 percent of the material that goes into the company’s decking.

Boeder said anyone can recycle bags where they shop. “Any citizen, anywhere, can recycle bags at their grocery store. They bail them and send them to a recycling facility, and Trex gets much of that material.”

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