Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Students reaping recycled rewards

Plastic-bag drive nets birdhouses, benches

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École Assiniboine School Grade 5 student Maya Pogson holds a birdhouse by a bench, both made from recycled plastic bags the students collected. Take Pride Winnipeg’s Tom Ethans and Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba’s Sarah Wallace look on.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

École Assiniboine School Grade 5 student Maya Pogson holds a birdhouse by a bench, both made from recycled plastic bags the students collected. Take Pride Winnipeg’s Tom Ethans and Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba’s Sarah Wallace look on. Photo Store

More than a million plastic bags have been diverted from Manitoba landfills, thanks to a few hundred elementary school students.

The giant recycling initiative is part of a program called Bag Up Manitoba, organized by Take Pride Winnipeg. Students from 168 elementary schools across the province collected plastic bags during October.

A total of 1,347,017 plastic bags were collected. They are now being recycled into new products that will be donated back to the community.

"It makes a tremendous difference to get that many bags off our streets and out of our lakes and rivers," said Tom Ethans, executive director of Take Pride Winnipeg.

The plastic bags given out with purchases at nearly every retailer in the city are not part of Winnipeg's recycling program. The bags tend to get caught in the machinery and so the majority end up in the landfill instead.

"We need to make sure the young people are aware that recycling a little thing like a plastic bag makes a big difference," Ethans said.

The bags students collected were sent to American recycling and plastics company Trex, where they were formed into benches and birdhouses. Every participating school will receive two birdhouses, and 14 lucky schools will receive benches, based on the number of bags they collected.

École Robert Browning School collected more than 30,000 bags. They received their recycled plastic bench Wednesday.

"We are working on creating an outdoor classroom, so the new bench is a great addition," principal Michelle Clarke said.

Ethans and Clarke agree Bag Up Manitoba has been a fantastic program in the school. Clarke said more students came to class with reusable lunch kits and the enthusiasm for recycling spread.

"It had a ripple effect in the community. Neighbours and community members even brought in plastic bags to support the cause," the principal said.

Bairdmore Elementary School collected the most bags within the city, 52,000.

Bag Up Manitoba began in 2008, and since its inception more than three million bags have been diverted from landfills.

Ethans hopes the plastic bag will go out of use, replaced with reusable and sustainable alternatives.

Until then, Safeway collects plastic bags for recycling at retail locations.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2013 A16

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Updated on Friday, December 6, 2013 at 7:07 PM CST: Corrects typo.

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