Community-Wide Plastic Bag Drive
By Abby W., in-depth reporter
Clean Up Give Back, a local non-profit environmental group is hosting a clean-up challenge during April in celebration of Earth month called the Community-Wide Plastic Bag Drive. The challenge is a plastic bag collection campaign sponsored by Trex, Jewel, and others supporting environmental causes.
Trex will take the plastic bags and recycle them into outdoor furniture and decks. They will also provide a bench that will be donated to the community. “This challenge sounds like a good way to help keep the environment clean.” said junior Theresa Palmeri, “I hope people will come out and get involved in this challenge.”
Lake Shore Recycling, Groot, Republic, Waste Management, and Flood Brothers all do not allow plastic bags in the recycling bins because bags damage their machines. The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags after four trips to the grocery store. So what happens to these un-recyclable bags? They go into landfills where they take 1,000 years to decompose. A bag given out at Jewel today will outlive shoppers’ grandkid’s kids.
Through participation in this challenge, bags that would continue to pollute the environment for years to come would instead be used to make a bench that would benefit the community. “I didn’t know plastic took THAT long to decompose,” said Palmeri, “That really puts things in perspective for me.”
One bench is made with 500 lbs of plastic. If you were to take a garbage bag and fill it full of plastic it would only weigh about 3 and a half pounds. The goal is to divert thousands of pounds of plastic from landfills into benches that will serve the community. To complete this challenge, the whole community will have to come together.
“I’m really excited about getting the community involved and making this happen,” Clean Up Give Back founder Donna Adam said. “We can’t do it without the community. It’s not even possible that we could get that much plastic without having the community behind us.”
A chapter of Clean Up Give Back in Oak Park did the Trex Plastic Challenge, and collected over 2200 pounds of plastic.
Volunteers will be needed from area schools to help collect plastic. Anyone can be a volunteer, even if not involved in environmental clubs. Volunteers from Maine West will help educate their Des Plaines family and neighbors and go through the plastic and make sure it’s acceptable. For example, a plastic bag with food in it would have to be cleaned out or discarded, Adam said. The community as a whole, including Maine West and Des Planes residents, will also bring their plastic to drop-off points in the community. Some acceptable plastics are grocery bags, bubble wrap, zip lock bags, plastic wrap, and many more. Designated drop-off points, volunteer sign-ups, and a full list of accepted plastics can be located at www.cleanupgiveback.org.
If humans keep up plastic pollution at their current pace, ocean plastic will outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. “The cleaner the environment, the more we end up caring about the environment,” explained Adam. “The cleaner things are, the less likely people are to litter. When people see that there are all kinds of litter everywhere, and they have something in their hand, they will probably throw it down. But when there’s no litter, they’re less likely to throw it down. It really helps everyone to keep the litter in its place.”
Photos by Clean Up Give Back