SNOHOMISH — Money can’t buy a lot of things, including the four new park benches that will soon be installed in Snohomish. Instead, they’re being paid for with 2,000 pounds of recycled plastic.
The benches are the result of a recycling program, Bags-to-Benches, launched by the Snohomish Lions Club last November. The Lions and other local groups have been collecting recycled plastic — lots and lots and lots of it — to send to a company that, in turn, donates benches made from composite recycled materials.
What started out as a backyard operation quickly snowballed into a long-term community project.
Lions Club treasurer Renee Deierling said she never imagined the project would pick up so much traction when she pitched it to the club last year.
“It’s going so well, and people are so happy to divert plastic from landfills,” she said. “It’s nice to have something that gives you a finished product and benefits the community. People are really loving the idea.”
Initially, the club set out with a goal to collect enough plastic for just one bench. That’s 500 pounds, or about 40,500 bags. But less than two months later, they surpassed that goal and garnered support for the project from other community groups, including Green Snohomish, Snohomish Kiwanis, high school groups and Girl Scouts Service Unit 223.
On Wednesday, they collected enough plastic to get a fourth bench, thanks to help from Key Club students at Snohomish and Glacier Peak high schools who collected 200 pounds altogether.
“You might almost say this is a kids’ bench because the plastic for it was collected mainly by the Girl Scouts and high school students, ” Alice Armstrong, a Snohomish Key Club member, said. “The high school students really pushed it over the edge, and that’s pretty terrific.”
In the early days of Bags-to-Benches, Deierling was using her back yard to store the collected plastic. That order grew a little too tall as word about the project spread, so the Lions Club looked to community businesses for additional storage space.
Those interested in donating plastic to the cause can drop it off Northwest Security and Sound, 1208 10th St. Suite 101, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Armstrong said she’s grateful for the people and businesses who have assisted with the plastic collection process.
“That’s a nice cooperation on their part,” she said. “It’s a lot — having 200 pounds of plastic dumped on your doorstep.”
A comprehensive list of acceptable plastic types is listed on the Bags-to-Benches website, and it includes grocery bags, newspaper sleeves and shipping envelopes.
The exact location where the benches will be installed is still in the works. Project leaders are working with the Snohomish Parks & Facilities Department to determine where they’ll be placed — Cady Landing, 40 Maple Ave., and Riverview Wildlife Refuge, 1801 First St., are two top contenders right now. Deierling said the first couple of benches are set to arrive in seven weeks, at which point installation plans will begin.
Before ordering the benches, project leaders had to get them OK’d by city officials, because, as it turns out, some bench colors simply aren’t allowed in parts of the city. The Historic Downtown Snohomish Association has a set of guidelines for public seating. To fit those guidelines, all four benches will be a forest-like shade of green.
“In general, the public is really happy to know their recycling is being made into something. They’re not just vaguely dropping it off at a recycling site, but they can see an actual purpose,” Armstrong said. “It’s a very green thing — saving plastic and turning it into something useful — so the color is kind of symbolic in a way.”
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterellen