Composite wood deck maker Trex has a challenge for schools across America that is sure to give families a lesson or two about those controversial supposedly single-use plastic bags for groceries, bread and produce.
The Winchester, Va.-based company is bringing back the Trex Plastic Film Recycling Challenge, which encourages elementary, middle and high school students to collect items made of polyethylene for the chance to win benches for their school grounds. Trex uses about 2,250 plastic bags to make one of its standard 16-foot deck boards.
While PE may be used a little more as an acronym for physical education to the kids and parents, contest participants will realize they use the plastic PE in high and low density forms for far more than lugging home things from stores. From cereal bags in the morning to PB&Js in Ziplocs for lunch to newspaper sleeves, dry cleaning bags and Bubble Wrap, the world's most popular resin is very versatile.
It's very recyclable, too, when it gets to take-back programs like the one at my neighborhood Kroger store, and the ones that will be popping up at hundreds of schools across the U.S. for the start of the Trex challenge on Nov. 15. Trex recycles the PE items into outdoor products like fences, storage bins and rails in addition to decks and benches. Other companies use them to make playground structures and even more plastic bags.
The Trex contest coincides with the start of America Recycles Day and runs through April 15, which is one week before Earth Day, when the regional and national winners will be announced. Last year about 430 schools participated. They collected more than 167,000 pounds of plastic film, keeping it out of landfills and community recycling facilities, where it often jams up the sorting equipment. They also learned take-back program work. Trex is one of the biggest plastics recyclers in the country. The company uses more than 1.5 billion plastic bags to make its composite wood products out of both forms of PE as well as sawdust from scrap wood that also would have been landfilled otherwise.
A poster the company made for schools joining the Trex challenge lists 14 acceptable items with the first one being LDPE/HDPE films. I'm not sure that will generate any discussions or Internet searches about the resin applications that are demonized so much lately. But I do like how it illustrates an important part of the conversation that gets lost in all the pontificating about bag bans and user fees: Single-use bags get a second life through take-back programs. It's an easy, green solution that I hope takes hold of the next generation.
For more information about taking the Trex challenge, go to http://www.trex.com/recycling/recycling-programs/