In the bag? Trumbull competes to collect 500 pounds of plastic

TRUMBULL — If April Lang has her way, Trumbull residents could soon be relaxing on a park bench, enjoying a cleaner town and a greener environment as their trash gets turned into a scenic relaxation site.

Lang, a local teacher and member of the Trumbull Sustainable Team, is trying to build support for a recycling effort that would partner the town with the Trex Company, which transforms plastic film into seating surfaces.

“The idea is to get these things out of the stream,” Lang said. “Get them out of the trash, out of the recycle bins, and recycle them into something useful.”

Plastic films, which are used in grocery bags, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, produce bags and more, are the primary ingredient Trex uses in its composite material. The company recycles the plastics into decking and fencing material and more.

The recycling program is called the Plastic Film Recycling Challenge. Communities that sign up have six months to collect 500 pounds of recyclable plastic (about 40,000 plastic bags). The company will provide promotional materials and recycling bins, and will award a composite bench to communities that complete the challenge.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, plastic bags are intended to be cheap, lightweight, and durable. As a result, Americans use more than 380 billion of them each year, and only about 5 percent are recycled. About 12 million barrels of oil are used to create those bags, according to the EPA.

Because the bags do not easily break down, much of the plastic bags ever made still exist, littering parks, roadsides and parking lots. When it rains, they float into storm drains and from there into rivers and waterways, where they become part of a global problem, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Such debris can kill marine animals when they eat it or become entangled by it, according to NOAA.

Trumbull officially started its collection efforts Feb. 1, but Lang said other initiatives in town have been ongoing for the past two years.

“Middlebrook school has been doing a similar program, and they rock at it,” Lang said. “Last year, we started late, and still got 260 pounds. We’re trying to get all the other schools, Town Hall, the library — get everyone involved.”

To donate, bring clean plastic films to a collection bin at Stop & Shop on Quality Street, or to the bottles and cans redeemable drive that the Trumbull High School Golden Eagle Marching Band hosts the second Saturday of each month.

The first few Saturdays collecting plastic at the high school went well enough that volunteers were taking turns making runs to Stop & Shop to weigh and drop off bundles of plastic.

“We’re making multiple trips throughout the day when our cars are full,” Lang said. “That’s what we want.”