During this year’s Plastic Free July, the Trust is committing to going plastic free and highlighting tips and tricks to reduce plastic use. Admitting we have a plastic problem is the first step to finding a solution, and that’s exactly what the Przbylowski family is doing. After partnering with NexTrex, 16-year-old twin sisters Kathryn and Madelyn distributed collection bins to gather plastic waste and raise awareness in our community.
One of their collection bins can be found at the Rushton Farm Farmshed. We invite CSA members and visitors to Rushton Farm and Rushton Woods Preserve to drop off their plastic in this bin and in turn eliminate more plastic that makes its way to landfills everyday. Read below to understand what plastic is being accepted and learn more about this great project.
Interview with mom, Tracy Przybylowksi, and her daughters, Kathryn and Madelyn.
Can you describe the project you are working on?
The organization we work with is called NexTrex and it’s through the Trex company which makes environmentally responsible outdoor products like composite decking and railing. We participate in the Trex School Challenge which means we compete with other schools our size across the nation to see who collects the most plastic film. Around Earth Day the winners are announced. This is a great program for schools because it raises awareness among students and families showing us first hand just how much plastic is used and thrown away, which is primarily single-use. We place our bins at Tredyffrin-Easttown Middle School (we’re hoping to put one at Conestoga High Next year) as an easy way for families to drop off their plastic. We then collect the bin when it is full, we weigh it and bring it to Wegmans where Trex will then collect all plastic film to turn it into environmentally responsible outdoor products. We are trying to get as many schools to participate as possible. More information can be found here: https://recycle.trex.com/
How did you get involved in this project?
We’ve been “plogging” (picking up trash while jogging/walking) for several years around our neighborhoods and when we go to the beach after following Take 3 for the Sea. We noticed A LOT of plastic bags stuck in gutters and around waterways. We found this program and thought it would be a great way to educate our community and recycle plastic film. We started the program when we were in 8th grade which was around the time COVID-19 started. We have continued the program into high school. This was a good way to continue doing our community service since it requires no person to person contact and it was still the height of COVID through the first part of our sophomore year.
What kind of plastic do you collect?
We collect plastic film, specifically produce bags, store bags, ice bags, ziploc and other reclosable bags, cereal box liners, case over wrap, bread bags, news paper sleeves, dry cleaning bags, bubble wrap, plastic e-commerce bags. Acceptable plastic film poster here http://www.plasticsmarkets.org/jsfcode/upload/w493_q2_sp21_0_trex-recycling-posterpdf.pdf Unacceptable plastic film here http://www.plasticsmarkets.org/jsfcode/upload/wd_493/20220309150414_9_jsfwd_493_q2_1.pdf
How much plastic did you collect last year?
During the 2020-21 school year, we placed 3rd in the nation by collecting 704 pounds. During the 2021-22 school year, we placed 3rd in the nation again by collecting 1,009 pounds.
Who collected the most plastic last year?
The first place school that won last year was from Elmhurst, Illinois. They collected over 4,000 pounds of plastic.
Where does the plastic that you collect go?
We place our NexTrex bins at Tredyffrin-Easttown Middle School as an easy way for families to drop off their plastic. We’re hoping to put one at Conestoga High School next year as well. We then collect the bin when it’s full, weigh it, and bring it to Wegmans where Trex will collect all plastic film and turn it into environmentally responsible outdoor products. We are trying to get as many schools to participate as possible. More information can be found here: https://recycle.trex.com/. You may also find bins at local libraries and Township buildings. If you can’t find a bin, Wegmans is a participating NexTrex business.
Did you learn anything new, or did anything surprise you about this project?
We were mostly surprised by just how much plastic we have collected the last few years, and we know this is just a fraction of what is being thrown away everyday. Many families have shared this same sentiment. Before starting this project, we had no idea that plastic film could even be recycled into decking!
Why do you think it’s important to use less plastic?
It’s hard to know exactly how long it takes for plastic film to decompose, but we know it’s at least a decade or more. It’s likely it will never fully decompose and will just turn into microplastics, which harm both humans and animals. The consumption of microplastics will only increase if we continue to irresponsibly dispose of single-use plastics.
What are your collection goals for this year?
Our biggest goal is to educate our communities to use less plastic. We have given our collection numbers to local advocates who are trying to ban the use of plastic bags. Our hope is to continue to raise awareness and use more NexTrex bins in our townships so plastic film can be recycled responsibly and not end up in landfills and waterways. If plastic must be used, we hope that the plastic is then recycled into something environmentally responsible. We have recently had a lot of interest and questions from other schools looking to incorporate NexTrex in their schools so it’s exciting to see young people getting involved in environmental issues.
How can people help you achieve your goals?
You can start helping by limiting the use of single-use plastic film! If you do have to use it, then properly dispose of it. We would be happy to drop off a NexTrex bin to your establishment! Or sign up for your own bin! You can also follow @Mainlineploggers on Instagram for some local environmental tips and programs that help keep our communities clean and green!
Visit our Plastic Free July page for more resources.