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South Carroll High School was gifted two benches by Martin's Food made from recycled plastic bags. They were assembled by students on the school's Green Team.
South Carroll High School was gifted two benches by Martin's Food made from recycled plastic bags. They were assembled by students on the school's Green Team. (Courtesy Photo / Carroll County Public Schools)

Two new benches in a garden at South Carroll High School were created from recycled plastic bags. A lot of plastic bags.

The eco-friendly furniture is part of the Martin’s Food “Bags to Benches” Program. Jodi Cook, advisor for the school’s Green Team student organization, applied to receive the benches and the group was chosen.

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The benches are made from recycled plastic grocery bags and were assembled by students.

According to Giant, who owns Martin’s Food, it takes more than 10,000 plastic bags to make one park bench. Since 1997, 1,700 benches have been donated. Giant customers are encouraged to return unused plastic bags to their local store to be recycled.

The Green Team, a student group devoted to environmental stewardship, placed the benches on an area of campus that they maintain as a meditation garden. Filled with native plant species, walkway stones and sculptures created by a student at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, the space was designed for counseling services to use when students needed a place to cool down.

CCPS Outdoor School has previously donated plants and mulch to the project.

“Recycled benches help to exemplify a Green Team goal of solid waste reduction and show one way to upcycle trash into items that benefit the community,” according to a news release sent out by Carroll County Public Schools.

The Town of Hampstead announced Tuesday it will no longer be accepting plastic bags in recycling bins after Hughes Trash Removal notified them the county no longer accepts them. The mandate went into effect across the county a few months ago, but will now be more strictly enforced.

Cook said that members of the Green team regularly collect plastic bags in school and transport them to Martin’s and other drop-off centers for recycling. Single-use plastic bags like those that groceries come in cannot be disposed of in recycling bins in Carroll County because they can become snagged in landfill equipment and damage it.

They also spend time collecting paper, cans and bottles and making sure they are recycled so that the school’s waste output is more sustainable.

Originally, the plan was to unveil the benches during Green Team’s Green Week activities this past April, but they did not arrive in time. A formal dedication will be planned for next school year, Cook said.

Each day of the Green Week was a different activity. One was a nature walk, another was an agriculture day in partnership with FFA and during another Outdoor School Principal Gina Felter visited with raptors.

On the final day, students participated in a day of service around the school.

A handful of women who call themselves “the bag ladies” meet every Wednesday at Carroll Vista's clubhouse in Taneytown to transform heaps of recycled plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for the homeless.

Junior Grayson Routhard has been a member of the Green Team ever since his freshman year. He was already seeing the results of the service day during lunchtime. Students mulched around trees in the school courtyard, cleaning the space up so that they could eat outside during lunch as the weather got warmer.

He and friends also cleaned up litter and planted trees near the school stadium, securing the saplings with ties so they will stay stable as they grow.

Participating in the Green Week was appealing because “I felt like I could clean up the community, help out the school, make it nice for other students,” he said.

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