OTSEGO COUNTY—The Otsego County Solid Waste Department and the Otsego County Conservation Association are teaming up once again to promote the Otsego County Schools Plastic Film Recycling Challenge. The challenge promotes recycling of film plastics and is open to all public and private K-12 school buildings located in Otsego County.
The challenge kicks off on America Recycles Day, November 15, and runs through April 14, 2023. During the challenge, students are encouraged to collect clean, dry film plastic, including single-use grocery bags, Ziploc-style food bags, wood pellet bags and more, and bring them to their school. A volunteer weighs the film plastic, submits the weight collected, and delivers the collected plastic to a participating retailer for recycling. Each week, the weight of material collected is reported to OCCA. The school that collects the most film plastic by weight per capita will win.
“Even with New York State’s recently enacted ‘bag ban,’ there are still many types of film plastics being used, and the challenge has been a great way to get them out of the waste stream,” said Jeff O’Handley, program director for OCCA. “In the three years of the challenge, schools and their communities have collected over 10,000 pounds of film plastic for recycling.”
The Otsego County Schools Plastic Film Recycling Challenge is a subset of a national film plastic competition run by Trex, which recycles film plastics into construction materials. Schools registering with Trex will receive promotional materials and three recycling bins and have the chance to win a bench made from recycled film plastic. Schools registering with the Otsego County challenge will receive instructions and a packet of information about how the challenge works and what can be collected. Schools that don’t have a suitable container for collecting the film plastic are eligible to receive a free container from Casella Waste Systems.
Schools that register for the Otsego County Film Plastic Recycling Challenge can also register separately to participate in a national challenge run by Trex, which uses film plastic to make construction materials such as composite lumber. Schools that register with Trex will receive separate materials from Trex and are eligible for different prizes.
Tammie Harris, the director of Otsego County’s Solid Waste Department, said the Film Plastic Recycling Challenge is not just important because of how much plastic gets recycled.
“The Challenge is important as an educational event that teaches people how and where they can recycle film plastics,” Harris explained.
Unlike rigid plastic containers such as milk jugs, film plastics are not collected as part of Otsego County’s regular recycling program. A 2009 state law required certain retailers to provide containers for their customers to return plastic bags and other film plastics to the store. The store is then responsible for sending them to a recycler.
“Despite the state law, many people didn’t know that these items could be recycled, or how,” Harris said.
Schools that would like to register for the challenge can visit the Otsego County Solid Waste Department’s website at otsegocounty.com/departments/s-y/solid_waste/plastic_film_recycling_challenge.php. They can also contact Jeff O’Handley at OCCA, (607) 282-4087. Though the challenge kicks off on November 15, registration will remain open until November 30.