Waukee Elementary Students Repurpose Plastic Bags Into Outdoor Furniture

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WAUKEE, Iowa -- Students at one Waukee Community School are learning how recycling materials can be repurposed into something new.

It started when a parent volunteer and teachers at Brookview Elementary started asking second grade students how they recycle at home.

Parent volunteer Ashley Thoreson said, “We sat down with the kids and really wanted to take them from start to finish with this project. Learn their recycling habits at home. What they already knew about the issue of plastic bag waste. I was really surprised that 7 and 8 year olds already knew that plastic bags a big problem in landfills.”

Second grade students started collecting bags for the “Build With Bags” program that aims to reduce the use of plastic bags, increase recycling, reuse and repurpose them into something new.

The program is in partnership with the Iowa Grocery Industry Association.

Thoreson said the school plans to repurpose the plastic bags into outdoor furniture for an outdoor classroom.

“Were in the design process right now working with the district and some landscape architects to design the right space that fits the needs for the school,” Thoreson said.

Thoreson said the school is applying for multiple eco-friendly grants to build an outdoor classroom.

“Something like an outdoor classroom is going to require multiple source of funding and that’s another reason why we felt like the school could be benefit from something like this. There is a build with bags grant that we are applying for. That would help defer some of the cost of one or two pieces of outdoor furniture,” Thoreson said.

In less than a month the students have collected 530 plastic bags.

Second Grade Student Alexis Rutto and her classmates have a scientific method to counting all of the bags. “We put nine bags in one whole bag to make 10 so we know how many there is.”

Students have been getting the word out to recycle and collect plastic bags the old fashion way with some paper and markers.

“The posters we made are telling all the people to recycle and not just throw them in the ocean in the trash. Because sometimes people throw bottles in the trash and then it ends up in the landfill. And we don’t want this to happen,” Rutto said.

Posters can be found throughout the school community and local grocery stores.

Once collected, the bags are taken to the Hy-Vee warehouse to begin the recycling process. From there, Plastic Recycling of Iowa Falls will use the bags and create outdoor furniture.

“It's important to recycle so it doesn’t end up in the landfill or the ocean because some animals will die or choke,” Rutto said.

The school hopes to begin construction on the outdoor classroom later this spring and early summer. It is projected to be completed for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition, students are also collecting used Crayola markers to be repurposed into bus fuel.

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