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Rhinelander Plastic Bag Recycling Project Off to a Strong Start

Ben Meyer/WXPR

In just two weeks, a program in Rhinelander has collected more than 350 pounds of plastic bags for recycling.

Those bags will be transformed into a composite bench in the city.

Emily Popp, who works at Mel’s Trading Post in Rhinelander, is organizing a five-month project to collect people’s bags for recycling through a program called Trex.

“A lot of people have a cupboard full of them or a space in their garage where they just have plastic bags on top of plastic bags because you can’t throw them away, you can’t recycle them with your regular recycling, but you don’t want them to go to a landfill, so they just pile up in your house,” Popp said.

Trex uses plastic bags to make composite decking, and will turn Rhinelander’s bags into a community bench if 500 pounds are collected by September 1.

That goal seems inevitable with the pace so far.

Eligible bags include grocery bags, Ziplocs, ice bags, and cereal bags.

“Kind of the rule of thumb that I have learned is that if you can push your finger into it and the bag stretches, you can bring it in. If it snaps right away, or if you break through it right away, or it doesn’t budge, it’s not eligible,” Popp said.

You can recycle bags at Mel’s Trading Post.

Recycling facilities are also coming soon at Tractor Supply Company and the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.