STLP students recycling bottle caps

Published 9:09 am Monday, March 19, 2018

With a couple of full nail polish bottles, coins and one wrapped strawberry candy tossed to the side, GRC students Jada McKenzie, Erica Ray and Miller Riddell picked through hundreds of bottle caps, throwing the usable ones in a large trash bag and the not so usable ones in a couple of boxes.

The students are doing so as part of their Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) project. STLP uses project-based learning principles to empower student learning and achievement through the utilization of technology to solve school and community needs, according to Kentucky’s STLP website.

Several students with GRC’s STLP program have spent about 10 hours just picking through bottle caps, and have spent about 60 hours on the project in total.

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Recycling bottle caps is the primary focus of the STLP project, senior Jada McKenzie said. After the bottle caps are collected and sorted, the plastic will be ground and fused to make benches and tables. Then, STLP students will place the new creations throughout the community.

McKenzie said she has been with STLP since her sophomore year, and this is the first year the STLP group decided to a project focused strictly on recycling.

“We thought we needed something different from last year,” McKenzie said. “We thought, ‘Hey, nobody in Winchester recycles No. 5 plastic.’”

McKenzie said often, you have to remove the cap to recycle plastic or glass bottles. Factories use polypropylene (plastic No. 5) to make bottle caps. Plastic bottles, on the other hand, are usually made from a different kind of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (plastic No. 1). No. 5 plastic can made into things such as garden rakes, brooms or ice scrapers, according to an article by NPR.

However, it is harder to melt caps than bottles because of the different plastics used. To be recycled and reused, No. 5 plastic must be sorted, washed and shredded into flakes. There’s about 100-degree difference between the melting point for the cap versus the bottle, according to NPR.

So far, the group has gathered almost eight tubs of caps, but McKenzie said she has no idea just to how much that equates. The group plans to weigh the caps later.

“It’s crazy,” McKenzie said. “We throw that away every day. That shows how many we go through a day.”

McKenzie said the group partnered with CKI Warehousing Inc. CKI will match 100 pounds of plastic for STLP’s first bench.

“We think we have enough bottle caps at this point we may be able to have a table made for the school to go with the bench,” STLP advisor and GRC Media Specialist Connie Cobb said. “…We never dreamed we’d get that many bottle caps.”

The students also worked on benefit nights at the Dairy Queen on Fulton Road because the benches will require funding to be built.

McKenzie and Erica Ray are also advancing to the state competition for individual photo submissions.

To collect the caps, STLP students put bins throughout the community in the hospital, local churches and sports fields. The students are also hosting a schoolwide competition to see which class can collect the most caps. The winning classroom will receive a pizza party sponsored by STLP.

The STLP students will compete and present their project alongside about 500 other schools at the state championship March 29 at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The top two projects will move on to nationals.

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0015.

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