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Otsego County Conservation Association, in conjunction with the Otsego County Department of Solid Waste and Planning and Casella Resource Solutions are holding a film plastic recycling challenge for schools, to begin in 2019. The program aims to promote proper recycling of grocery bags and other film plastics, which cannot be recycled through traditional recycling programs. The challenge is open to all public and private K-12 school buildings located in Otsego County.

The challenge will run from January 1 to April 1, 2019. During the challenge, students and teachers are asked to collect clean, dry film plastic, including single-use grocery bags, Ziploc-style food bags, newspaper bags, wood pellet bags and more in bins at the school. Each week, students will weigh and record the amount of film plastic collected, and a volunteer will deliver the collected plastic to a participating retailer for recycling.
"New York State has required that retailers collect and recycle plastic bags and other film plastics since 2009," said Leslie Orzetti, OCCA's executive director. "Yet a lot of people are not aware of that. We're hoping the challenge will make more people aware of this important program and the kids will educate their families about the importance of recycling."

Schools will be divided into two categories for the competition: Elementary School and Middle/High School, and have the option of being part of the national competition sponsored by Trex©. Participating schools will compete against each other to collect the highest amount of plastic film per capita. All participating schools will receive a certificate of recognition. Prizes for winners in each category will be announced at a later date.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New Yorkers use more than 23 billion plastic bags each year. Most film plastic ends up in landfills.

Though film plastic can be recycled into new bags, film plastic, and rigid materials such as composite lumber, they cannot be collected as part of Otsego County's traditional recycling program, said Karen Sullivan, Otsego County's Director of Solid Waste.
"The recycling facilities our plastics go to are not set up to handle film plastics. Bags and stretch film get tangled in machinery and lead to costly breakdowns," Sullivan said.
Over the last year, recycling costs have soared, due to tighter contamination standards. Where Otsego County used to receive a rebate for recyclables, we now must pay.
"Keeping bags and film out of our recycling stream will help keep our costs down," said Sullivan.
Schools that are interested in taking part in the Plastic Bag Challenge should contact Otsego County Conservation Association at (607) 547-4488.