Innovative partnerships help turn waste into Trex benches

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 09-04-2023 6:34 PM

Earth-toned benches are appearing in several communities across New Hampshire, gracing spaces such as libraries, schools, and even supermarkets. What makes these benches unique is that they’re not constructed from traditional materials like wood or metal; instead, they are crafted from recycled plastic.

These are Trex Benches presented to communities as a gesture of recognition for their efforts in collecting difficult-to-recycle plastics such as films, resealable bags and wraps.

Recently, a bench from this collection has found its new home at Hannaford’s Concord outlet.

In 2006, Trex Company Inc., a composite deck maker based in Virginia, introduced a recycling initiative named NexTrex. This program involves collaborations with community partners to collect plastic materials.

Emily Whitacre, the company’s recycling programs coordinator said the program was born out of the company’s commitment to educating and engaging the public in responsible recycling of plastic film.

“With the NexTrex program, you not only know where your recycled plastic film is going but also how it will be used,” Whitacre said. “With the help of thousands of community partners across the country, we are able to divert millions of pounds of plastic waste each year from ending up in landfills and give it new life as beautiful and sustainable Trex decking.”

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In exchange for every 1,000 pounds of plastic film collected in a 12-month period, Trex rewards the participating community with a complimentary bench.

One of its community partners is the Capital City Sunrise Rotary Club.

The club has gathered almost 3,000 pounds of polyethylene plastic film since it began collecting it in February 2022, with the third bench being given to the Hannaford store in Concord in appreciation for working as the club’s distribution center for plastic recycling.

For Philip Nadeau, President-Elect of the Rotary Club, this recycling program ranks as the most impactful initiative the club has undertaken during his membership tenure.

“There is no downside except it takes some time and energy on members to pick up the plastic,” said Nadeau. “There’s no money involved. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The process begins when communities or organizations enroll in the recycling program, receiving bins and posters from Trex for collection. Participating retailers like Market Basket, Hannaford, and Shaw’s in New Hampshire then gather the collections and send them to distribution centers.

There, the plastic is baled and sold to Trex by weight. The resulting composite deck boards comprise 50% recycled wood and 50% plastic film.

Communities collaborating with Trex enjoy a cost-free partnership, where they receive benches crafted by one of Trex’s licensed partners, Polywood, an outdoor furniture manufacturer.

These benches are not made from plastic film but rather manufactured using recycled hard plastics sourced from items like milk jugs and water bottles.

Similar to the Rotary Club’s initiative, the Lions Club is helping Hopkinton in recycling plastic film.

In July, Hopkinton welcomed its second bench, placed on the newly constructed patio of the town’s library.

Another bench has found its place at Merrimack Valley High School, a contribution of the Key Club’s efforts. The Rotary Club also partnered with Grappone Automotive Group, to supplement Merrimack Valley’s waste collection with the leftover plastic seat coverings used when shipping their new cars, instead of throwing them away.

“We wanted to involve students and will attempt to engage anyone,” said Nadeau. “It was just nice to have kids involved in an eco-friendly, environmentally friendly campaign that made their world a little better.”

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