Boy Scouts bag success with year–long recycling effort
By Meg Ferrante
Imagine how much space 70,428 plastic bags would take up. Now imagine that many bags, right here in Morgan County, stacked up and overflowing the Pack 91 Scout Hut, the Boy Scout camping trailers, the recycling station at Morgan County Elementary, the Morgan County Parks & Rec Department and eventually, den leader Nancy Brock's dining room. And garage. And bonus room.
Pack 91 collected that many bags--all 940 pounds of them--in their 2008 recycling drive, rescuing all that plastic from an eternity in the landfill. The four trailer loads of bags have been delivered to Trex Company, Inc., which manufactures composite lumber made of plastic bags, shrink and poly wrap, reclaimed wood and sawdust. In return, Trex has on order 12 composite lumber park benches that will grace the outdoor areas of the elementary school, along with multiple locations in our county parks.
Den leader Brock said the project has been true to the Boy Scout ideal "leave no trace." "The idea is that you use only whatever you need, you remove what you don't and you leave only footprints," she said.
Brock modeled the project on the wildly successful school collections in Athens that collected 8.2 tons of plastic to build new habitats for the animals at Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail. Having completed studies on recycling and after visiting the Georgia Nature Center for clean energy and sustainable living in Watkinsville, it was time for the scouts to try their hands at something tangible on the subject.
After sorting, counting, bagging and handling the staggering number of bags, the lesson hit home. "I think it really is helping them learn we can't just throw all this stuff away," Brock said. The enthusiasm for the project netted them more than 5,000 bags over their original goal. It also earned them a recycling patch, a World Conservation award and an upcoming Good Turn for America patch.
The recycling program at Morgan County Elementary, spearheaded by fifth grade student support teacher Wayne Burnham, was responsible for 22,866 of the bags in the final count. "He was such a big help," Brock said. "We really hope to work with him again."
"I read about their efforts in the paper and called to see how I could help," Burnham said. After spreading the word through the morning announcements, the students went quickly to collecting. "We had a few students who brought in several hundred by themselves," Burnham said. He added that the project was a great addition to their year-old schoolwide program which keeps waste in the school to an absolute minimum.
"All collections of paper, cardboard, cans or plastic bottles is done by student volunteers. I simply helped build the system, but the students are the drivers. We would love to do more in the community and welcome ideas or collaboration with other groups or programs."
For her part, Brock would love to see the program continue. Just not at the expense of giving up her dining room again. To make matters more complicated, Brock and her den leader ended up taking time off work two different times and borrowing trucks to load and haul the trailers of bags to the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Facility where they could be transported to Trex Company. "Storage and transport are the two problems," she said.
She has made multiple phone calls to gauge interest and participation and see if anyone else wants to take on the effort. "We had a lot of interest and participation this past year. People are still bringing their bags over to the Scout Hut. I would love to see it go county wide." No takers yet, but "I'm really hoping the county will do it," Brock said.
PHOTO BY MEG FERRANTE
LOADING UP: Members of the Morgan County Boy Scout Pack 91 help load one of four trailer loads with some of the 70,428 plastic bags they helped collect last year. The bags were recycled through Trex Company, Inc. who in turn will give the scouts 12 composite wood benches to place throughout the county parks and outside the elementary school.
Published in the January 22, 2009 edition.