It’s America Recycles Day, a nationally-recognized day that celebrates and promotes recycling in the U.S.  Here is a little bit about what I’ve been doing to raise awareness to the importance of recycling. 

Since September 9, 2019, I have been collecting #5 plastics. Now, almost 10 weeks later, I have collected, sorted and cleaned over 15,000 pieces of #5 plastic.  This translates into approximately 257 pounds of plastic that would otherwise have gone into our landfills and waterways. 

What are #5 plastics?  They are cold drink cups from fast food chains, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Wawa, etc., many take out containers, frozen food containers, prepared food tubs, prescription bottles, plastic hangers, yogurt, fruit, applesauce and pudding cups, frosting/icing tubs, contact lens cases, and butter or margarine containers, to name a few.  Where did the plastics go? 

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Every week, I took them to Whole Foods.  Whole Foods is working with Preserve, a recycling company in Cortland, New York, through their Gimme5 program.  Preserve recycles the plastics into toothbrushes, utensils, plates and other items. You can find more information about Preserve at www.preserve.eco.

I first became aware of the need to improve our recycling while living in Germany for three months. There, all kinds of materials, including plastics, are separated and collected for recycling, with much less going into landfills.  I thought increasing awareness on proper recycling would make for a great project for my Girl Scout Silver Award. I had no idea how much of an impact I would make in such a short amount of time.

A huge "Thank you" to those who have supported my Girl Scout Silver Award project.  This includes my school, local municipal building, senior center and YMCA, my dance studio as well as the State House. Every piece I collected helped save our environment.  

I will now be ending the collection portion of my recycling project.  Preserve informed me they are phasing out the collection of consumer recyclables through Whole Foods.  Their new focus is on the recyclable utensils and food preparation containers that Whole Food uses in their stores.  But this does not need to be the end of recycling #5s. Preserve will accept clean, rigid #5 plastics (no medical plastic, please) directly from individuals. 

People will have to mail the plastics to the Preserve recycling center at: Preserve Gimme 5, 823 State Route 13, Cortland, NY 13045-6574

Working on my project has been a great learning experience for me and for so many people who did not understand or know the difference between the types of plastics there are and how they are recycled. With so much focus on the world’s environment, it is important to understand how every choice we make has an impact. Hopefully, you can see how making careful choices about our use and recycling of plastics can make a world of difference.

Dana Trotta is a Girl Scout from Hamilton Township is working on recycling to earn her Silver Award.