Happy America Recycles Day! Our Next Change Maker is Alex Babich, an 11 year old at Eugene Field Elementary School. Along with the help and support of his parents, Alex is taking on a community project that is near and dear to his heart, as it honors the loss of his younger sister Kate in June of 2016. Alex is helping to conserve the planet one plastic bag at a time and provide Benches For Kate throughout Park Ridge in her memory. Alex and his family officially launched Benches For Kate in May 2017. Here is a special Change Maker interview with Alex conducted by Amy Bartucci, Founder of Go Green Park Ridge.
Did you already have an idea that plastic bags could be recycled into new products before Mr Bennett (aka Girl Scout King) came through with the idea for a collection for a bench for Kate?
Well, sort of! I had seen a sample bench at Jewel-Osco one time. But, yes, Mr. Bennett thought of the purple ribbon collection from the trees in Park Ridge. (Jennifer, Alex’s mom added: Scott & his Girl Scout troop collected all the purple ribbons to recycle and also collected the rest of the necessary 500 pounds of plastic for the first bench. It is near the Girl Scout labyrinth at the Wildwood Nature Center.)
Did you think collecting plastic bags would require so much (or so little) work?
I really didn’t know if it would be hard or easy. I never cared if it was going to be something difficult. It was hard at first, until we got into our current system. We had to work out timing and scheduling our pickups and how and when it would be best to take the plastic bags to Jewel after we weighed them. We have a daily pickup at Centennial Fitness Center and we pick up as needed at Maine Park and Centennial Activity Center. We drop off plastic about two times a month, with help from a friend Mrs Gonzalo, at Jewel on Busse. People at Jewel have been very nice!
What kinds of things have you ever made out of trash?
Well, recycling ideas in our family usually came from Kate. She would happily make things out of old boxes all the time. She was the real recycler. I am glad to be doing this now though. I can make a difference by collecting 500 lbs of plastic for each bench. We have one bench at the nature center, one at St Andrews Lutheran, and one coming up!
Did you ever hear of the old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?”
Yes. I never thought of it that way, but I do now!
Do you practice or remember a certain thought, phrase, or visual memory when you are doing something so special in Kate’s name in Park Ridge?
Yes, I envision a cleaner ocean! I want to save marine animals.
Tell us about the weighing task you take on. Is it easy? Hard? Educational? Fun?
Weighing is really the easy part. We leave the bags of plastic in our garage until we weigh each collection before taking them to Jewel for Trex – the company that makes the benches. We use a spring scale. My mom keeps a spreadsheet that we total up our weights and we contact Trex so they know how much plastic we have collected towards the next bench in Park Ridge.
What are some things that could make your job easier?
Plastic bottles - keep them out of the bins!
What can others do to help you further?
We use our own larger kitchen garbage bags for the loose bags in the collection bins. It would be helpful if people tied up their bags into a larger bag because I hang the bags on our scale. This isn’t necessary though.
Did you ever think you’d be interviewed for something as usual as a “plastic bag collection”?
What’s your favorite part of the Benches For Kate effort?
Pickups make you feel like you’re doing something important - especially on Sundays - we’re doing something together.
What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a collection bin?
A loofah from the shower!
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