Plastic Bottle Caps become Recycled Plastic Benches

Plastic Bottle Caps become Recycled Plastic Benches

25th May 2012, in Blog, News ( Comments)

We are so proud of the students at LA Ainger, who over the last two years have earned enough credit in bottle caps with our company, Recycled Plastic Factory, that they have been able to retro-fit all of the benches on campus with recycled plastic lumber…amazing how something so small can be so big!

Please see Recycled Plastic Factory Article on Page ES1 of May 23, 2012 issue of Englewood Sun

Bottle caps become benches
Middle school students ‘STEM’ waste

ROTONDA WEST — In the world of recycled plastic, bottle caps have a special place — in the landfill.

For years, recycling programs around the U.S. have told their residents that plastic bottle caps could not be recycled curbside with their other plastics and instead, should be tossed in the garbage bin, according to Earth911. com, a private, for-profit company that provides recycling information.

Students at L.A. Ainger Middle School know otherwise.

For more than two years, they have been collecting plastic bottle caps — more than 10,500 pounds worth — and getting paid for it.

Recycled Plastic Factory of Englewood paid the school 20 cents a pound for their 5-plus tons of plastic bottle caps, and the factory melted down the bottle caps to manufacture plastic “lumber” that has been used to retrofit 30 of the school’s outdoor benches.

The benches, originally made with wood planks, needed constant maintenance.

As word got out that the school was recycling bottle caps, the community started pitching in. Retirement homes, supermarkets, restaurants, other schools, the local hospital all delivered or mailed bottle caps to the school.

“It’s been a massive effort,” said science teacher Andrea Green. “The community just grabbed it.”

By 10:30 a.m. Thursday, there were garbage bags stuffed with bottle caps outside Green’s classroom. She has a storage room set aside just for bottle caps.

“Everybody has bottle caps,” Ainger Principal Marcia Louden said. “They like the fact it can be useful.”

Cindy Googins grew up in Englewood and in 2004 bought the Recycled Plastic Factory from her dad, David Arp. The company was founded in 1992.

Googins and Green have been friends since attending Lemon Bay High School together. Louden was the school’s assistant principal from 1989 to 1992.

The business partnership began when Green asked Googins in casual conversation how to incorporate recycling into the school curriculum.

“They’re products of our school system,” Louden said. “I feel like these are my kids.”

Kelly Romanoff with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation was at the school Thursday to see the fruits of the STEMsmart initiative, created by the foundation to jump-start teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and math.

The goal of STEM is to prepare students for future employment. To that end, the foundation has committed $2.5 million in grants over five years to Sarasota and Charlotte county schools.

The partnership between the school and the factory is an ideal one for teaching kids about real-life possibilities for jobs, Romanoff said. “They’re considered a business partnership under STEM, one of 60 business partnerships in the Sarasota-Charlotte program.”

Students have learned to separate the caps and remove the ones with metal, saving the threaded ones for recycling.

Ainger student Maite Olaez Escobedo said she is happy to see bottle caps replacing wood in benches.

“Less trees (cut down) means more oxygen,” she said. “It’s a good way of saving the environment. Other countries should do this.”

“You’re not filling up the landfill,” said fellow student Danielle Tormey.

The school, located at 245 Cougar Way, Rotonda West, is still collecting threaded plastic bottle caps — anything that twists.


SUN PHOTO BY DANA SANCHEZ, Students in the L.A. Ainger Environmental Club supervise as Paul Stella with Charlotte County Public Schools switches out a wooden plank for one made of recycled plastic on a school bench. Students collected plastic bottle caps for more than two years, and Englewood’s Recycled Plastic Factory manufactured the planks. Thirty school benches have been retrofitted.

SUN PHOTOS BY DANA SANCHEZ, Jamie Harvey, Danielle Tormey and Maite Olaez Escobedo try out a bench on the L.A. Ainger Middle School grounds that is being retrofitted with recycled plastic timber. Decaying wooden planks (red) have been replaced with brown recycled plastic planks made in Englewood at the Recycled Plastic Factory using more than 5 tons of bottle caps collected over two-plus years by students.

Cindy Googins, owner of Englewood’s Recycled Plastic Factory, holds a tub of plastic bottle caps, destined for recycling. L.A. Ainger Middle School students collected 10,500 pounds of them over two-plus years. With Googins are Kelly Romanoff of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and students Rebecca Thompson, Abigayle Weinfeld and Tyler Moore.

These bags of plastic bottle caps were dropped off at L.A. Ainger Middle School science teacher Andrea Green’s classroom sometime between the start of the school day and 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Students have collected more than 5 tons of bottle caps over two-plus years and had them recycled into plastic timber for school benches. Pictured here are members of the school’s Environmental Club, Abigayle Weinfeld, Rebecca Thompson and Tyler Moore.

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