Sustainable Seating: UF Turns Bottle Caps into Benches
They may look ordinary, but two benches located at different University of Findlay campus locations are anything but. Instead, they’re made from recycled bottle caps derived from items ranging from toothpaste tubes to peanut butter jars.
Made possible by Findlay Green Campus Initiative and the student-run Green Campus Club, this collaborative student, faculty, and staff project represents yet another strategic, successful venture in campus environmental sustainability.
The idea for the benches came about when Amy Schlessman, D.H.Sc., D.P.T., assistant professor for UF’s Physical Therapy Program, noticed elementary schools she works with collecting bottle caps for bench-making. As a FGCI member, Schlessman presented the concept to that group, and soon, caps were being collected all over campus. Fourty-nine boxes of caps, each weighing 30 pounds, were collected from a southwest Ohio Pepsi packaging plant thanks to a worker who heard about UF’s efforts. “We saved a lot of plastic from going into the landfill,” Schlessman said, noting she “was thrilled I was able to get so many individuals involved” from both on and off campus.
Ideal Lease helped haul 200 pounds of plastic caps to Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana, where the caps were made into benches.Each gray-and-black 4-foot bench required about 100 pounds of plastic caps, and cost about $150 to make; one bench, located on Cory Street Mall near Newhard Planetarium, was sponsored by professor and Communications Program Chair Diana Montague. This means that UF still has plenty of plastic left to make more benches. The campus sustainability groups are hoping to launch another campaign to do so in the near future.
Schlessman thinks this project will go beyond the basic utility concept by getting people to consider recycling beyond the traditional realm of bottles, paper, and metal. “People think about recycling jars, but not the lids,” said Schlessman. For Green Tree Plastics to produce recycled benches, lids must be smaller than eight inches in diameter and not include a metal rim, which encompasses a wide range of commonly-used products such as shampoo bottles and dry-erase markers.