Park benches from candy wrappers?

Sparta. The Sparta Middle School Green Team partners with Subaru World of Newton to turn hard-to-recycle waste into items that people can use and enjoy.

Sparta /
03 Dec 2020 | 04:01

Imagine the journey of a typical candy wrapper. A child eats a piece of Halloween candy, puts the wrapper in the garbage and that’s that.

Not necessarily. Thanks to an initiative by Subaru, that little candy wrapper could end up going through a recycling program and ending up as part of a park bench. Doug Crouse, a French teacher and the co-adviser of the Sparta Middle School Environmental Action Club (aka The Green Team), learned of this project and his group of kids jumped on board.

“We want to inspire other community groups to organize their own collections to reduce the huge amount of plastic that makes its way into our waste stream,” Crouse said. “As a club we’ve talked a lot about what we can do to contribute to that effort, including holding a ‘ban plastic straws’ day last year. Halloween was a logical time to do an initial candy wrapper drive, and we’ve decided to continue collecting plastic wrappers throughout the year (assuming we’re here in school.)”

The Environmental Action Club delivers their collections of candy wrappers to Subaru. “It’s pretty amazing the range of things that can be recycled these days,” Crouse said.“

“We have a collection bin here at the dealership, but when Sparta Middle School jumped on board, we were really able to contribute a lot to the project,” said Chris Dexter, general manager at Subaru World of Newton. Subaru sends its collections to New Jersey-based TerraCycle. “They can recycle most anything,” he said. “Right down to ballpoint pens. TerraCycle’s mission is to ‘eliminate the idea of waste.’”

This translates to gathering trash that traditional recyclers don’t handle such as coffee, tea, and creamer cups; snack wrappers; straws; and disposable cups and lids. TerraCycle provides pre-labeled “zero waste boxes” to Subaru dealerships across the United States. Once those boxes are full, they get sent back to TerraCycle. Items are then sorted, with metals melted down and plastics turned into pellets.

“These are then turned into park benches and other outdoor items,” Dexter said. “It’s really impressive.”

Abby Weisbeck is a seventh-grader at Sparta Middle School and part of the Green Team.

“I joined the Green Team last year when it first started, so when we talked about doing this project, I knew I wanted to help,” she said. “The Green Team does do things like this. Things we have done in the past are giving presentations and spreading awareness about turning off the lights in your classrooms when you leave. It helped save a lot of energy. We also had a Green Day in the cafeteria, where everybody brought their lunches in containers and reusable bags instead of plastic.”

For the candy wrapper project, she said the Green Team spread the word throughout the school and community that kids should bring them in on a certain day for collection.

“It was a great way to make Halloween more green,” Weisbeck said. “And the wrappers will be turned into useful things instead of just being thrown away.”

“I joined the Green Team last year when it first started, so when we talked about doing this project I knew I wanted to help.” Abby Weisbeck