Up to the challenge

Eisenhower Elementary defends Trex Challenge championship

Times Observer photo by Lorri Drumm From left, in front, are Samantha Childs, Kendra Danielson, Lainey Font, Olivia Wallace, Ariel Ludwick, Gabe Walters, and Hialeah Stanton and, in back, Brian Reynolds, Eisenhower Elementary School principal, Debbie Zurcher, Whirley DrinkWorks inside sales representative, Jordan Burlingame, Matt Jones, WCSD grants, and Karen Donovall, teacher.

A group of students at Eisenhower Elementary School celebrated a three-peat on the last day of school.

The award was acknowledged with a huge trophy and a check, but the effects of the win reach far beyond the school.

For the third year in a row, the school earned first place in the Warren County School District for the Trex Challenge. The 5,194 pounds of plastic collected was also the second highest amount collected by participating schools throughout the state.

The Trex Challenge is a competition to collect and recycle the most polyethylene plastic. Whirley DrinkWorks manages the challenge for the school district. Whirley’s Debbie Zurcher presented the students with a $300 check to support the program.

The plastic recycling program involves students, staff, parents, local businesses, churches, and individuals, according to EES teacher and recycling advisor Karen Donovall.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Eisenhower Elementary School students Mason Huling, Nick Hagg, Keeley Alcon and Max Uber are pictured with bags of plastic recyclable material collected for the 2019 Trex Challenge. The school collected the most material among participating schools in the Warren County School District.

“It’s amazing what a community can do when they team together,” Donovall said.

The plastic collected doesn’t just come from school, although they do recycle plastic from the school’s food services. Parents save plastic for their students to take into school. About a half-dozen businesses and many local churches contribute also, according to Donovall.

“Once the plastic film reached the school, a team of fifth-grade students packaged, weighed, and marked the bags ready for drop off,” Donovall said. “The weights were recorded on a spreadsheet that includes names of various businesses that save plastic for the school.

“Once everything is weighed, it is stored at the school until Tuesday and Wednesday, when a caravan of parents and staff carry the plastic film to Tops (Tops Friendly Markets) in Warren,” Donovall said. “It is all carried onto a trailer for delivery to the warehouse. From there, it goes to Buffalo (N.Y.) to be sorted and sent out to Trex Company.”

Trex Company is the leading recycled materials manufacturer of wood-alternative decking, railings, and other outdoor items. The company created several of the benches that sit outside the elementary school.

It takes 10,000 grocery bags to equal 130 pounds of plastic, which is just enough to make one bench, according to Donovall.

The school was able to send enough plastic to produce 39.95 benches this year.

Donovall has already had upcoming fifth-grade students express interest in being part of the recycling team next school year. They will have their work cut out for them in order to keep up the momentum, but Donovall is confident they can do it.

In the first year of the recycling program, the school collected 902 pounds. That number jumped to 3,547 pounds during the 2017-18 school year.

Youngsville Elementary/Middle School did an impressive amount of recycling as well. The school ranked 10th out of all participating schools in the state.

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