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Green Bench Challenge Gets Students Excited About Recycling

Green Bench Challenge Gets Students Excited About Recycling

This spring is our first ever Green Bench Challenge, a recycling challenge for schools in the district. The goal? Collect 2000 #2 plastic bottles by May 1. The reward? An outdoor bench made of recycled plastic!

Ten schools across Washington County have signed up for the challenge, ranging from first graders to high schoolers. As part of their participation, each school hosted a visit from our Boston Mountain Environmental Educator, who talked to the students about plastic waste and recycling.

The students learned how plastic is made (from oil), how long it’s been around (only about 100 years!), and what happens when we throw it away (it doesn’t break down in the landfill…). They learned about plastic pollution, and were indignant to hear that the oceans will likely contain more plastic than fish by 2050.  They learned that we use 1500 plastic water bottles every second in the U.S., and only recycle about 300 of those. They learned about the different types and numbers of plastic, and which are recyclable (here, just #1 and #2 bottles!) Finally, the students learned what happens after they place a plastic bottle in the recycling bin. Where does it go? What does it become? They were shocked to learn that many plastic bottles are turned into polyester t-shirts!

As of March, two schools have reached their goal and received their “green” bench, which is made of both recycled #2 plastic (High-density polyethylene, such as detergent bottles and milk jugs) and scrap tires. The students were beyond excited to help load their bottles into the box truck and unload their new hard-earned bench, and were eager to share stories about their experience. We hope that they’ll continue to think about the whole life cycle of the things they use and aim to give their “waste” a new life.

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