SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and JASON Learning launched the 2014 “Think Outside the Bag!” plastic film recycling contest Wednesday. Sponsored by SPI’s Flexible Film and Bag Division (FFBD), with support from plastic bag manufacturer and recycler Hilex Poly, and JASON Learning, a nonprofit organization managed by Sea Research Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the “Think Outside the Bag!” contest will ask students to come up with a creative campaign to increase recycling of flexible plastic films, like dry cleaner bags, product wrapping and even traditional plastic grocery bags.

Participating student teams’ campaigns will be judged on two elements—a campaign poster and a presentation — for how well they educate and galvanize their communities to increase their recycling of plastic films. “We each encounter flexible film plastic products in our everyday lives,” said SPI Vice President of Industry Affairs and FFPD Liaison Patty Long. “But as of 2012, only 12 percent of this material makes it to the recycling plant, and too often it ends up in the trash rather than on a truck back to a processor that can turn it back into something useful. SPI, the FFBD and JASON are committed to increasing plastic film recycling and we want students to help us make sure none of these materials end up polluting our hometowns, our waterways and our beaches.”

“The ‘Think Outside the Bag!’ contest will give students and schools the opportunity to get creative and hopefully help today’s youth become tomorrow’s plastic film recycling advocates,” Long added.

Campaign posters must be displayed in the students’ communities—in grocery stores, libraries or anywhere the student group thinks will be most effective in influencing plastic bag and film recycling behavior. Teams must then photograph their poster design and submit it to JASON for judging, along with a detailed presentation that describes how they came up with their idea, what challenges the team faced and how the campaign changed and influenced plastic film recycling behaviors in their community, among other aspects of the campaign. Student groups can range from two to 32 participants, each with at least one adult leader, and entries will be judged in three different grade bands (K–4, 5–8, and 9–12) by representatives from SPI and JASON. First-, second- and third-place winners for each age group will be announced in April and will be awarded with $750, $500 and $250 cash prizes, respectively. The winning teams’ entries will be featured on the SPI and JASON websites, and the teams will be recognized in trade, local and national media. Additionally, all winners will receive a plaque for the team, certificates for all team members, and a full year of JASON online access for the adult team leader and all team members.

“Students shouldn’t limit themselves to just plastic grocery bags in their efforts to collect plastic films,” said FFBD Chairman Jim Russler of Bemis Company. “All sorts of items such as dry cleaning bags, food packaging and shrink wrap can all be recycled, and we want students to help us educate people about what goes in the garbage and what can be recovered, processed and reused.”

“At JASON we pride ourselves on connecting students with the real professionals working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to explore new frontiers and find new solutions to the problems threatening our environment,” said JASON Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Eleanor Smalley. “The ‘Think Outside the Bag!’ contest will teach students about the plastic film recycling process from some of the industry’s biggest players, and give them the opportunity to think critically about the challenges that keep these materials from getting recycled and how they can overcome them in their communities.”

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About SPI

Founded in 1937, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association promotes growth in the $373 billion U.S. plastics industry. Representing nearly 900,000 American workers in the third largest U.S. manufacturing industry, SPI delivers legislative and regulatory advocacy, market research, industry promotion and the fostering of business relationships and zero waste strategies. SPI also owns and produces the international NPE trade show. All profits from NPE are reinvested into SPI’s industry services. Find SPI online at http://www.plasticsindustry.org and http://www.inthehopper.org.

"From resin suppliers and equipment makers to processors and brand owners, SPI is proud to represent all facets of the U.S. plastics industry," said William R. Carteaux, president and CEO, SPI. Our most recent economic reports show that the plastics industry as a whole is resilient, and has come through the recession significantly better than other U.S. manufacturing sectors."