Fort Hunt Elementary students compete in recycling challenge

Fort Hunt students prepare to weigh backs of recycling material
Fort Hunt students weigh plastic bags at the school.

Students at Fort Hunt Elementary School are participating in a nationwide plastic film recycling challenge to both learn about recycling and compete for a sustainably built prize.

Since last November, members of the students’ Eco-Club — in conjunction with the Fort Hunt Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) — have been collecting plastic bags and wraps in bins at the school, weighing them monthly and delivering them to local recycling partners as part of the Trex Plastic Film Recycling Challenge. Held each year between National Recycling Day and Earth Day, the challenge engages K-12 students in the recycling process and awards prizes to top recyclers based on grade level, school size and region.

According to Lisa Petrone, a fourth grade Spanish immersion teacher who co-leads Fort Hunt’s Eco-Club, students have already collected 425 pounds of plastics as of the end of February; the club had originally set a goal of collecting 500 pounds by the challenge’s April 15 completion date.

To motivate students, the school’s administration has introduced an incentive program, providing perks like extra recess and a pajama day for achieving certain milestones. The students are highly engaged with the challenge, marketing the recycling program, collecting plastics and weighing them, according to Wendy Putnam, president of the Fort Hunt PTA.

“It’s a win-win. The kids’ involvement is what makes all the difference,” Putnam said.

Last year, Trex’s school recycling challenge prevented 518,580 pounds of plastic waste from ending up in landfills, according to a company press release. The company uses polyethylene plastic from common household items to make wood-alternative living products, including benches, which are the first-prize award for schools.

A couple of local businesses have been supporting the Fort Hunt students’ mission to win the challenge. Village Hardware at Hollin Hall Shopping Center and Results Fitness, located at 7770 Richmond Highway, have been donating plastic wraps and bags to the school.

Local residents are welcome to join the cause by dropping off plastic bags and film at the main office of the school, located at 8832 Linton Lane (see map), from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays through April 15. Following are a list of accepted plastics, which must be clean, dry and free of food residue:

  • Grocery bags
  • Bread bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Newspaper sleeves
  • Ice bags
  • Plastic shipping envelopes
  • Ziploc and other reclosable food storage bags
  • Cereal bags
  • Over-wraps for packages of bottled water, soda, etc.
  • Salt bags
  • Pallet wrap & stretch film
  • Wood pellet bags
  • Produce bags