Published On: Tue, Apr 28th, 2015

From Bag to Bench: A Mesa recycling lesson

PHOENIX (Scrap Monster): The students at Mesa’s Sirrine Elementary School collected more than 312 pounds of plastic bags in about a month- the most of any school in the city- and on Earth Day they received their reward: a bench.

The bench looks and feels like about any other- nondescript and slightly uncomfortable- but it’s made from recycled plastic bags, just like the ones the Sirrine students collected.

plastic recycling

From Bag to Bench: A Mesa recycling lesson

The principal of Sirrine Elementary, Renee Parker, said that the school’s recycling and the actual bench has been a great way for the students to see what recycling can do.

“That’s proof that you can take a plastic bag and turn it into something else,” Parker said while pointing to the bench, “My hope is that this something they learn from and that they continue to practice this for the rest of their lives.”

The city of Mesa also presented a $500 check and an Earth Day Award to the winning school before planting a brand new tree with the winning class.

The collecting took place in March at 25 different Mesa elementary schools for the “Bench the Bag” Plastic Bag Recycling Challenge. All together, the schools collected more than 4,600 pounds of recyclable plastic material, Reyes said.

The Mesa elementary students were asked to bring in empty grocery bags, bread bags, shrink wrap, dry cleaner bags, and department store bags in an effort for the school to be the top recycler.

The Sirrine Elementary school class that donated the most plastic also received a pizza party courtesy of Bashas.

Teacher of the winning first grade class, Cherri Biggs, said that this further motivated her students to bring in more recycled plastic.

“I was encouraging them everyday and I explained to them what happens if plastic bags are left un-recycled,” said Cherri Biggs, teacher of the first-grade class that collected the most material.

“They were also very motivated by the pizza party,” she said.

The bench was created by Trex, who also helped support the “Bench the Bag” Plastic Bag Recycling Challenge, as well as the East Valley Recycling Alliance and Bashas’.

Plastic bags cannot normally be recycled with other materials because they tend to get caught in the recycling equipment, said Mariano Reyes, a Mesa spokesman.

“This is a great way for us to remind the kids that just because you can’t recycle plastic bags with regular recyclable goods, doesn’t mean that they cannot be recycled- you just have to take them back to their local retailer,” Reyes said.

Residents who want to recycle the plastic bags they have at home should look for a bucket at their local grocery story specifically designed to collect the bag, Reyes said.

Mesa saved more than $78,000 in landfill fees last year through collecting nearly 20,000 tons of green waste.

The green waste material includes grass, tree trimmings, small trimmings and is a unique recycling program that allows the recycled material to be turned back into compost and mulch and resold to home improvement stores.

That material is in addition to more than 32,000 tons of recycled goods collected through Mesa’s blue barrel program last year, he said.

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