The Otsego County Solid Waste Department and the Otsego County Conservation Association are teaming up again to promote the Otsego County Schools Plastic Film Recycling Challenge. The challenge promotes proper recycling of film plastics and is open to all public and private k-12 school buildings in Otsego County.

According to a media release, the challenge will begin on America Recycles Day, Nov. 15, and run through April 15, 2022. During the challenge, students are encouraged to collect clean, dry film plastic, including single-use grocery bags, Ziploc-style food bags, wood pellet bags and more. A volunteer will weigh the film plastic, submit the weight collected, and deliver the collected plastic to a participating retailer for recycling.

The challenge is a subset of a national film plastic competition run by Trex. Schools that register with Trex will receive promotional materials and three recycling bins and have the chance to win a bench made from recycled film plastic. Schools registering with the Otsego County challenge, only, will receive recycling bins from Casella Waste Management.

The Solid Waste Department and OCCA have teamed up to present the challenge since 2019, said Shane Digan, solid waste and recycling coordinator for Otsego County, though it was interrupted last year by COVID-19. “The challenge was originally primarily about education, but it also removes a lot of film plastic out of the waste stream,” Digan said. “In the two years we’ve run the challenge, schools have combined to recycle over 7000 pounds of film plastic.” Past winners include Gilbertsville-Mount Upton School District and Morris Middle/High School, the release said.

Unlike rigid plastics like milk jugs, film plastics are not collected as part of Otsego County’s regular recycling program. Instead, state law requires that stores that meet certain requirements make collection bins available to their customers and the public. The plastic is then sent to facilities designed to process the material, where it is used to make new materials, such as bags, or composite lumber.

“Film plastics are particularly difficult to recycle because they get tangled in the machinery used to sort recyclable materials, leading to equipment breakdown and costly delays,” Digan said.

Schools that register for the challenge will receive materials showing what material can be collected, participating retailers where the plastic can be taken, and suggestions for organizing their collection. The winning school from Otsego County will receive a prize from the Solid Waste Department and OCCA. Prizes are based on weight of plastic collected per capita, and there will be one prize each for elementary and secondary schools. All schools that also sign up through Trex will also be eligible to win a bench made from composite materials. Winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2022.

To register for the Otsego Film Plastic Challenge, visit https://tinyurl.com/yfx8wzjz. To register for the Trex Film Plastic Recycling Challenge, visit https://tinyurl.com/29hx2adp and choose “School Recycling Program” in the dropdown menu on the registration form.

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