Plastic Bags Traded In for Benches in Northern Virginia Community

The historic town is solving two problems: limited seating along the river and sending too many plastic bags to the landfill

If you're like most people, you probably have a stash of plastic bags somewhere in your house. 

Occoquan, Virginia, has a creative plan for those leftover grocery bags, dry cleaning bags and bread bags: trading them into a company in exchange for benches.

Occoquan is collecting tens of thousands of bags for the project. Participants must provide 500 pounds' worth of plastic bags to receive each bench, provided by the Trex company in Winchester.

Although the benches themselves are not actually made from plastic bags, they do contain more than 90 percent recycled content, including post-consumer materials such as milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles, said a spokesperson on behalf of Trex.

Occoquan's first bench is already in place, and they're getting close to adding a second.

"I think everyone's really excited. They've gotten everyone involved," said Merial Currer, owner of Patriot Scuba, a local shop collecting the bags. "You know, like I said, they really feel ownership in it, and they get excited when they bring bags in and want to know how far we are."

While many cities and towns already recycle plastic, many of them don't recycle plastic bags, so Trex is trying to fill in the gaps, the spokesperson said. Trex uses the plastic bags to make decking.

CORRECTION (Sept. 3, 2019, 1:02 p.m.): An earlier version of this story said the benches are made from recycled plastic bags. In fact, the bags are traded in for the benches.

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