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Victor Elementary School students celebrate their new bench, the product of a huge community plastic collection effort.

The benches are finally here! Five lovely new benches made from Trex recycled post-consumer plastic waste have been donated to various locations around the valley thanks to Teton Valley Community Recycling, RAD Curbside, and all of the community members who have been recycling plastic through TVCR’s Bags to Benches program.

One bench was delivered to the Victor Elementary School playground. This bench was earned by collecting 500 pounds of plastic waste from VES staff and families. The kids were excited to get a new “buddy bench” and were really proud that their recycling helped make it happen. Four other benches were donated to the community by RAD Curbside to celebrate the plastic recycling effort. After an online vote, these benches were delivered to the winning locations including the Alta Library, the Driggs City Plaza, Tetonia’s Ruby Carson Park, and the Victor Dog Park.

Since March 2021, community members and some businesses and schools have been collecting clean, stretchy #2 and #4 plastic wrap and bags with Teton Valley Community Recycling’s “Bags to Benches” program. The collection fills a gap in what Teton County’s Recycling Center can currently collect, manage and store. The majority of our plastic bags were ending up in the trash, although Broulim’s and the Jackson Recycling Center will accept stretchy plastic for recycling. TVCR enrolled in the bench program to divert plastic waste from the landfill, give the community an easier way to recycle plastic bags, and to earn recycled plastic benches from Trex for our community. In 2021, we recycled more than 2000 pounds of community plastic that would otherwise have been landfilled.

The students and staff at Victor Elementary School quickly embraced the program and began bringing mountains of clean, consolidated plastic bags from home to be recycled. Each week, TVCR staff collected and weighed the plastic along with plastic from two community collection points, the Geo Center in Driggs and General Laundry in Victor. This plastic was carted over to Smith’s in Jackson where the manager agreed to combine it with their store plastic and pallet wrap that is all sold to Trex. Several local businesses have also regularly collected and delivered pallet wrap and other plastic including Grand Teton Brewing, the Stinker Store, and the Victor Post Office, with help from TVCR board member Deb Grove.

While we are excited to have our first benches, the plastic problem still exists. TVCR urges people to cut down on single use plastic whenever possible by bringing your own bags and reusing what you have. The Bags to Benches program will continue with the hopes that eventually RAD Curbside and Teton County will take over and be able to collect, bale, and sell community plastic. A trial bale was attempted in early November and resulted in some good learning. County baling equipment can handle the plastic without ruining the machinery, however it takes an enormous amount of plastic to create a single bale making storage a huge challenge.

We will continue exploring options to figure out how best to manage plastic waste in our county. In the meantime, Bags to Benches collection points at Victor Elementary, General Laundry, the Geo Center, and Alta Library are our best option. Please bring your clean accepted plastics (visit tetonrecycling.org for complete details or pick up a postcard at the Geo) – and before we know it, we’ll have earned another bench!