Tops to Bottoms (An Update)

An update on some good news:

Some news about people doing good things. Some news about people working together. Maybe some news about people turning garbage into something useful. How about wrangling a bunch of young people to collect 200 pounds of plastic screw cap bottle tops to make into park benches.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the “Tops to Bottoms” youth program.

Last year, we had collected enough bottle caps to make one park bench. Since the program at my church started, we’ve collected more than enough tops to make eight benches.

Holy guacamole!  That’s a lot of tops.

That makes me happy and sad at the same time.

Happy because all those bottle tops are repurposed by a community back into the community and into something the community can see and use.  In other words, everyone doing the work benefits from the work, and we see it in real time.

Sad because all those tops had a bottle or a jar attached to it.  And that’s a lot of plastic.  Hopefully, everyone collecting tops is also recycling the bottles and jars, too.

Last week, I ran into one of the youth leaders and asked whether they considered selling the benches to individuals. I it turns out Green Tree Plastic makes a wide range of products, including picnic tables and fencing.  I love the idea of a picnic table made from repurposed bottle caps.

The Tops are repurposed into bottoms. Well, a place to rest your bottom, anyways.

In case you didn’t see what I wrote last year, or don’t remember, here’s a recap:

I noticed a lovely blue bench on my way into church last summer. We never had a bench before. What a good idea. People are always milling around, talking, and catching up with each other after church.

I left that morning, with the bench niggling at me all day. I had to go back and get a photo.

Where did it come from?I wondered. Wait, here’s a little plaque.

I had to find out more, so I contacted Larry Fischer, who leads the Care of Creation efforts.

Green Tree Plastics partners with youth group and schools to turn plastic bottle caps into lumber, benches, tables, and custom items.

I got this from Green Tree Plastics’ website:
It is to be a tool in the hands of teachers to teach children about caring for the earth and green living. It must be put through children’s hands and someone must be responsible to see that it is a learning experience for them. (Kids from Daycare through University level)

Furthermore, the bench needs to belong to the children; it is to be placed where they want it to be placed so they can show others and be proud of what they have accomplished.

For anychildren’s organization to “qualify”, we must have a pledgethat children will be involved:   in the collecting, sorting and weighing.  This could be any children’s organization.  For example,  any class in Daycare, Sunday School, Elementary, Middle, High School, after-school YMCA (or other) group, neighborhood group, Scout group, Boys & Girls Club, sports team, choir, etc., etc., etc.

I gotta tell you, I could hardly believe all the different types of caps Green Tree accepts:

Recycle # 2, 4, or #5, which includes all of these and more:

medicine bottle caps/info packet removed
drink bottle caps: soda, water, juice, sport drinks, milk jug caps
flip-top caps (ketchup)
spout caps (mustard)

hair spray caps, shampoo/conditioner caps

toothpaste caps
ointment tube caps
deodorant caps

baby food caps
apple sauce pouch caps

cottage cheese container lids
cool whip container lids
mayonnaise jar lids
coffee can lids
yogurt lids
cream cheese container lids
peanut butter jar lids
butter container lids
ice cream bucket lids under 8″
Pringles lids

spray paint caps

detergent caps

All those lids get swirled together and come out grey.

Or you can order a rainbow of colors.  I really mean that.  Here’s a photo from the website of the lumber.

The lumber can be ordered with, or without, fiberglass mixed in.  The fiber glass (FiberCast™) makes the lumber even more durable than what they call MoldCast™.  Either way, the products are made with 100% recycled material. Click here to view Green Tree’s photo gallery.  I bet you’ll be as surprised as I was at variety of items they make.

Here are the two ‘old guys’ who I talked to about the project at our church, Larry Fischer and Steve Cafcules.

Since we first talked, the Care of Creation ministry and the Youth Group collect enough bottle caps to make eight more benches.
Anyone can donate because the groups put a collection barrel right at the entry way of the church. Some of the more enthusiastic participants in the program actively remove bottle caps from the wastebaskets at their schools.  Believe it or not, some of the local schools do not have recycling bins in the cafeteria. Besides Larry and Steve, Nancy Neumeister (Director of Religious Education) and Anne Tubridy  rallied the Youth Group who responded with obvious enthusiasm.

You may wonder how this fits into a ministry.

It’s all part of Pope Francis’s
On pollution and Climate Change, Pope Francis says:
These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled. It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants. But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard.
For me, [tweetthis]This is such a direct and tangible pay-off for plastic recycling efforts.[/tweetthis] I’m so excited. My mind’s eye sees benches and picnic tables popping up all around the county.  I hear there are some friendly competitions among several groups of teachers to see who can gain the most tops for their bottoms.  Bottle tops for benches that is.
Is this new to you?  Or are you already involved?  Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.