The Plains Lions Club has served The Plains community since the 1990s. It does what is necessary to help seniors, youth groups, hospitals and clinics. Like so much else in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the club to cancel events and become almost dormant since March 2020. Now, the club and its roughly 27 members are making a comeback with a new way to serve the community without gathering in large groups: turning plastic bags into park benches.    

How to participate

The group is using two locations to collect clean plastic: Mac’s Work Wear on East State Street in Athens, and All American Trophies and Sports on North Plains Road in The Plains. The collection accepts any clean plastic including: 

  • Film  
  • Produce and store bags  
  • Ziploc/reusable bags 
  • Bubble wrap 
  • Plastic shipping envelopes 
  • Ice bags 
  • Wood pellet bags 
  • Dry cleaning bags 

The plastic is collected by a company called Trex, and is used to make the companies decking materials. When the group can collect 500 pounds of plastic, Trex will donate a public bench made of the bags collected.   

Co-membership Chair Bill Omen is excited about the project and cannot wait to see a bench installed in The Plains Community Park.    

“We should probably get at least one, but 500 pounds is a lot of plastic bags. We are just glad to not have the plastic in our landfills, where it would probably stay forever,” Omen says.    

Omen believes he has collected 4 or 5 pounds already just from friends and neighbors, but he has underestimated his community.  In February, Mac’s Work Wear already had enough plastic for two benches.     

“This program has seemed to be quite successful and has brought quite a bit of attention to the club. There is a lot of talk about us continuing the project after the May date,” says Bill Snider, The Plains Lions Club co-membership chair, and owner of All American Trophies.   

The Trex Company  

Trex provides this service to any community willing to sign up for the program. The community must provide a six-month collection period and report the collection each month. Trex reports that 500 pounds is about 40,500 plastic bags and film. The company provides two recycling bags, posters and benches for anyone who can complete the challenge.   

Trex started to provide its plastic collection project to communities all over America in 2006. After collecting the plastic, the company shreds, melts and mixes the plastic with saw dust to create the polymer planks. As of now there are over 2,000 different groups that are participating in the project.  

Photo by Meghan Rowe

The Project Success

The Lions Club first announced the recycling project on its Facebook page in January and hope to continue the collection until May 15, 2021. Four other communities are joining in with The Plains to help with collection; Athens, Alexander, Chauncey Dover, Pomeroy/Middleport and the Alexander Leos, the Lions club for people under 21 years old.   

Nancy Clark of the Athens Lions Club is responsible for setting up this project for all the Lions Clubs in the area. Each of the five communities’ clubs has its own account with Trex and each will get its own bench if it meets its 500-pound goal. Athens had met its 500-pound goal before Feb. 19, and The Plains had over 300 pounds at that time as well.  

“On May 15th, we can actually sign up again and have another six months so if we want to get two benches we can, it’s really popular and people are trying to get us to just do it all the time,” Clark says.