Recycling Heroes: New Kent County Lions Club

March 16, 2022 | Published by Julie Buchanan

New Kent County Lions Club members Ginny Fuhrmeister (left) and Debbie Ivey pack up more than 50 pounds of plastics donated at a recent collection event.

The New Kent County Lions Club is working to turn trash into something the entire community can treasure.

Every first and third Wednesday of the month, club members set up in parking lots of New Kent retailers to collect plastic bags and packaging from passersby.

They’ve become known as the “plastic people” for a good reason — they’re working to collect enough of the material to earn a bench through the Trex Community Recycling Challenge.

The program, which is open to community groups nationwide, is sponsored by Trex, the Virginia-based manufacturer of recycled plastic composite decking and railing.

Groups must collect 500 pounds of “soft” plastics within six months to receive the prized bench. Trex makes the benches by combining reclaimed wood with recycled plastic film — the very same material brought in through the challenge.

The New Kent County Lions Club has been collecting since July 2021 and has already earned three benches. They are working toward a fourth.

The benches will be installed at various locations across the county for public use.

Green Trex bench

Benches the Lions earn through the NexTrex Challenge will be installed at public places and businesses throughout the county.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls,” said Debbie Ivey, the club’s first vice president. “Everybody’s been so appreciative. People drop their plastic off at our houses, or we go pick it up. They’re just glad something can be done with it.”

News of the project spread quickly through word of mouth and the local newspaper. Now it seems everyone wants to donate the plastic that’s sitting in homes and garages across New Kent.

Some retail businesses even donate the plastic wrap that comes in with weekly deliveries.

Keith Fuhrmeister accepts a donation of plastics from a resident.

New Kent Lions Club President Keith Fuhrmeister accepts a donation of plastics from a resident.

Focus on recycling
Worldwide, the Lions Club mission is to serve the local community. Recycling has been a big focus.

For years, the clubs have collected eyeglasses to be refurbished and distributed to people in need. The same has been done with hearing aids.

New Kent County Board of Supervisors member Patricia Paige is excited about the effort to turn trash into treasure.

“Plastic bags have been a long-time pest for the recycling world, even though there have been some creative efforts to reuse and recycle them,” said Paige, who is also chair of the CVWMA Board of Directors.

“Nothing makes me prouder than to have benches of recycled material around the county as an example of not only teamwork with community and organizations, but of how a few can make a huge impact on our environment. Many thanks to the New Kent County Lions Club!”

Plastic bags and film packaging are not accepted in CVWMA curbside or drop-off recycling programs. They tangle easily in machinery at the recycling facility.

These plastics contaminate recycling collections and could cause the whole batch to be trashed.

Luckily, many big-name retailers take plastic bags back to be recycled. Many partner with Trex.

“The Trex Community Recycling Challenge is an excellent way to educate communities on the correct way to recycle plastic bags and soft film plastics,” said Stephanie Hicks, Trex materials sourcing manager.

“It’s a win-win for the participating organizations and Trex. The organization gets the benefit of recycling soft plastics that would normally end up in the landfill, and are rewarded for their efforts with a gorgeous Trex bench to place in their community.”

How to donate
The New Kent County Lions Club collects plastic on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at the Food Lion Shopping Center parking lot, 9100 Pocahontas Trail, Providence Forge (beside Walgreens). Arrangements for pickup can be made by calling 757-406-9433 or sending a direct message through the group’s Facebook page.

This handout from Trex lists soft plastics that are accepted in the program.

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