Making Recycling Fun

When students actively learn through fun and engaging experiences, they have a better chance of retaining that learned knowledge and incorporating it into various aspects of their lives. And when it comes to learning about recycling, it can make a big difference – not only at school but also at home and in their community. Collectively, it can lead to a greater positive impact by keeping valuable recyclable materials out of landfills.

Of these valuable materials are plastic bags and flexible film packaging, such as your grocery bags, bread bags, bubble wrap and shipping envelops, among others. These are important plastics, durable and lightweight, that offer protection for food and other items as well as provide convenience for transporting contents. And while this valuable flexible plastic material is recyclable, it is often not included in curbside recycling programs. As a result, many grocers and retailers, and now some communities, are filling the gap by offering separate collections of these items to be recycled.

Education is a key element and critical part of the overall recycling effort. Recycling collection and capabilities often differ from community to community which understandably can lead to confusion by the consumer on what is recyclable. That’s where all stakeholders, including schools and businesses, can help shape the recycling landscape.

“Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”

 – John Holt, American educator, author

Designed to educate on the importance of recycling through fun and engaging activities, an annual Plastic Film Recycling Challenge was launched by Trex® to help school students better understand and appreciate the importance of recycling. Trex, one of the largest recyclers of plastic film, has been hosting the challenge for 15 years and uses the film collected from the challenge as a feedstock in the production of plastic composite decking. Every year since its launch, students across the United States compete against each other to recycle the most polyethylene plastic film (labeled #2 or #4) over a 5-month period between November 15 and April 15. As part of this challenge, schools are supported with educational materials and provided recycling bins. Participating schools must weigh and report the collected materials monthly and then drop them off at a participating retailer location.

In 2022, the 15th year of the Trex® Plastic Film Recycling Challenge nearly 700 schools participated in the educational and fun-spirited competition. What was new this year was the added sponsorship of Charter Next Generation who partnered with TREX to help grow the program’s reach and ignite the competitive spirits of K-12 students. Excitingly, the total number of pounds collected of plastic film in 2022 was 323,586 lbs. That’s a lot of plastic bags! 

By engaging students through active learning and teaching them about recycling through methods that help them learn best, we can keep precious materials out of landfills and put back into the system to support a circular economy.

CNG and TREX® are preparing to launch this upcoming year’s competition set to kick-off on America Recycles Day, November 15th.  

To learn more, visit

About Charter Next Generation: 

Charter Next Generation is North America’s leading independent producer of high-performance, specialty films used in flexible packaging and other end-use markets. Known for sustainable, innovative products and world-class manufacturing capabilities, the company’s quality and expertise are unsurpassed. Its sustainability first mindset, and relentless pursuit of excellence, make it an ideal partner to help brand owners reach their long-term sustainability goals.

About the Authors: 

Scott Hammer, Director of Corporate Sustainability, Charter Next Generation

Apurva Shah, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Charter Next Generation

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