Think your school could use a new bench – specifically one that combats the prolific problem of plastic bags?
A Bega Valley competition is encouraging entrants to keep soft plastics – like bags, wrappers and packets – away from landfill and organic waste by showing creative ways to recycle them, with the prize being a new bench made from plastic bags for five winning schools.
Bega Valley Shire Council’s waste project officer Amber Gault said council was pairing with recycling company REPLAS to turn 80,000 plastic bags into the benches.
“Each of the benches contain about 16,000 plastic bags that would have otherwise ended up in landfill, and they have a unique design to brighten up any school playground,” she said.
According to the Australian Plastics Recycling Survey, about 1.3 billion single-use plastic bags were used in 2018-2019.
As large as this number is, this is still good news as it showed use of the bags had fallen by 77 per cent since 2016–17, when Australians used 5.66 billion bags.
This drop was driven by state-wide bans as well as supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths phasing out free shopping bags at their stores.
Ms Gault said after soft plastics are emptied into the REDcycle bins at Coles or Woolworths, REDcycle takes them to recycling organisations like REPLAS, who turn them into functional items like benches, decking, signs, bollards and even recycled road surface.
“It takes a problematic waste product that can end up in our FOGO bins and flips it on its head by turning it into a valuable commodity,” she said.
To enter the competition for the school benches, take a photo to show a fun or unique way that you use your soft plastic collection bag at home.
“You might have somewhere funny where you store your bag, a cool way to decorate it, an interesting way you transport it to the supermarket, or it might even be what you do with the bag when you’ve emptied it in the bin and scrunched the bag back up into a ball,” Ms Gault said.
“The waste team will select the five most creative entries and each winner gets to choose a local school to receive an item of recycled furniture.”
BVSC’s soft plastic collection bags can be picked up for free at any shire library, waste facility, or at council’s reception in Bega.
Bega Valley residents can enter the competition online. It closes on 8 December.