By Taylor Patterson
Elm Staff Writer
“Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.” This is the slogan that the Student Environmental Alliance abides by in their new project: creating a bench from recycled plastic.
SEA is partnering with the Office of Buildings & Grounds this semester to convert plastic caps and lids into a bench for Washington College. This project was originally looked into two years ago, but transportation concerns forced them to set the project aside.
“When Ms. [Autumn] Carter from Buildings & Gounds approached us last semester about this and wanted to work with us, we were very eager to put the project into motion,” said junior Rose Adelizzi, president of SEA.
In order to encourage people to participate, SEA turned the collection of lids into a competition. There are five collection bins in Hodson, four for each class, and one for faculty, staff, and community members. The winning group will have their name featured on the bench.
“So far people have been very receptive towards this competition. We’ve had multiple students tell us that they’re getting their friends and family involved. And we’ve also reached out to [the Geographic Information Systems Program], the church that hosts our food recovery nights, and the dining hall to take part in this program,” Adelizzi said.
SEA and Buildings & Grounds will weigh, sort, and empty the bins regularly. The caps will then be stored until the goal of 500 pounds is reached. There is a list of acceptable and unacceptable caps located near the bins. SEA asks that participants rinse off their lids before placing them in the bins.
“And while recycling 500 pounds of plastic into a bench would be a very tangible achievement, I hope that this project will encourage people to think more closely about how much plastic we use and consider taking some small steps to reducing plastic waste on an individual level,” Adelizzi said.
Once enough plastic has been collected, it will then be sent to a company in India, Green Tree Plastics, where the bench will be produced from the lids. SEA would love to reach their goal by the end of the semester so that the plastic can be recycled over the summer.
“I am really proud of all of the SEA efforts. The Recycled Bench Project is one of many ways that SEA is making WC more sustainable. The Bench Project is also a great example of collaboration as the students are working with Buildings & Grounds. I can’t wait to see a new bench on campus next year made out of caps and lids that would have just been thrown out,” said Dr. Rebecca J. Fox, assistant professor of environmental science and studies and SEA’s faculty advisor.
Carter, team leader for Buildings & Grounds, said that while researching the Campus Recycling Program, she came across the Green Tree Plastics initiative. She noticed that many of the caps going through recycling process do not actually get processed with the plastic bottles.
Carter said that initially, she began saving caps for a friend who donated the caps to aid a chemotherapy patient.
“Therefore, when we mentioned that Green Tree Plastics could make use of the caps to create benches, playground equipment, tables, etc, it was a great way to utilize the caps to benefit the campus. Anytime the smallest piece of material can be reused or recycled it has a great impact on the environment. It is a great pleasure to partner with the SEA and all the exciting ideas they bring to the campus,” Carter said.
The products made by Green Tree Plastics are 100 percent recycled plastic and will never rot or need treatment as other wooden benches. SEA encourages all students to be sure to put in lids for their class and to help make an impact on the environment.