Bags to benches


Bags to benches

BY ANGIE HOLLAND, Managing editor

Photo: An SUV and trailer are packed full with hundreds of pounds of plastic grocery bags. The bags will be recycled, and will be used to create benches.     

MAHASKA COUNTY — There are nearly 60,000 fewer plastic grocery bags going into the Mahaska County landfill.

As of Oct. 17, Friends of Mahaska County have collected approximately 58,249 plastic bags – approximately 939 pounds – since receiving a Build with Bags grant in April.

Photo: Benches made of recycled plastic bags are placed at White Oak park. Other benches are placed throughout the county, with more planned to come.

The grant, through the Iowa Grocers Association and Keep Iowa Beautiful, gave $2,000 to Friends of Mahaska County Conservation. The grant funds, as well a local memorial match, were used to purchase benches made from recycled plastic bags.

Rodney Anderson, president of the Friends of Mahaska County Conservation group said education and the promotion of recycling of the bags has been a requirement of the grant. Bags were collected at MCG’s E-cycle, as well as Art on the Square, Mammoth Run, Nelson Pioneer Farm Fall Festival and other community events.

Anderson said arund 256 pounds of plastic were collected at the Earth Day E-cycle event at MCG, and it takes roughly 82 bags to make one pound.

Benches have been placed at the Environmental Learning Center, both inside and outside, at Russell Wildlife’s pond, Maskunky Marsh parking lot and the White Oak jetty. There are plans to put out more benches.

Anderson said the Friends of Mahaska County Conservation are working with local schools. A challenge recently ended at North Mahaska Elementary School, with at least 619 pounds of grocery bags collected.

“We did a program at North Mahaska the week before and told them there’s so many [bags] in this bench,” he said. “It’s been out on Facebook that they need bags. Parents are sending them. [Superintendent] Livezey saw them walking down the streets carrying bags.”

The students have been excited, Anderson said, to collect bags and earn a pizza party for their class.

Anderson said there has been wonderful support from the community.

“Many thanks to Fareway and Hy-Vee for sponsoring us for this grant,” he said.

A Saturday morning in mid-November has been tentatively slated as a drive-thru drop-off at Fareway parking lot. Collections will resume on Earth Day, revisiting the MCG E-cycle event, as well as resuming drive-thru drop-offs at Fareway parking lot once a month June through November.

“I’m sure that based on the fact that North Mahaska has had over 600 pounds that there’s more out there,” he said. “So it’s an unbelievable success. It’s a little bit of work, but the nice thing right now, we can get rid of them pretty quick.”