Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fabulous Foam!

My Junior Girl Scouts are out to make a big impact with their Bronze Project.  The girls are initiating a recycle program at all of the home varsity football games for the upcoming 2013 football season.  Based on my research this will be the first recycle endeavor at a high school stadium in Texas.  We are so pleased that the Southlake Carroll ISD School Board was so quick to embrace this concept and support our mission.  The first year we plan to concentrate only on the water bottles, Gatorade bottles and plastic cups.  But we hope this will make a big impact.  The stadium holds over 12,000 fans and if even if only half of the fans purchase one plastic bottle or cup on these hot Texas Summer nights, we can prevent 6,000 bottle from hitting our local landfill.  My Juniors will be responsible for education and encouraging fans to dump the left-over liquid from the bottles and tossing in the proper bin. 

In preparation for this daunting task we have educated the girls on recycling by participating in field trips, activities and guest speakers.  Republic Recycling is the company that will be responsible for the pick up at our stadium.  We had a representative from this company describe the recycling process.  She brought an informative video that showed all the steps involved in recycling various materials.

Next we visited our local landfill and learned all about the life of garbage.  We were able to see first hand how fast our landfills fill up and what is involved in the everyday processing of thousands of pounds of trash in our city.   I think the girls were pleasantly surprised by the amount of knowledge they gained and they developed a true appreciation for the impact our trash makes on the environment. 

Last week we went to Foam Fabricators on Keller Parkway where they produce and RECYCLE Styrofoam.  There is a myth circulating that styrofoam cannot be recycled.  Not so!   It is true that styrofoam can take years and years to fully degrade in our landfills and we were so excited to hear that it can now be recycled in our own backyard, giving the product a longer life.  Unfortunately recycling is still not possible with food packaging like cups and take out containers because of the food contamination, but you would be surprised by the volume of styrofoam used to package household items and electronics.  Large companies like Best Buy, Maytag, and Trane bring truck loads of used styrofoam to the facility every day and Foam Fabricators break the styrofoam pellets down, and heat them up again using steam to form the styrofoam into new molds and packaging.  This company is truly dedicated to recycling.  They even encourage the companies that contract for their styrofoam to send back the cardboard boxes they use for shipment of the styrofoam and Foam Fabricators will then use and re-use the cardboard boxes.  As well local residents can drop off styrofoam at the facility and walk away with the piece of mind knowing that the styrofoam will be re-used.
The facility tour was incredibly interesting and even my daughter said, "This was the best field trip ever... well for an educational one I mean."  One girl commented she felt she was watching the Science Channel's hit show, "How It's Made".  The girls learned about all the different kinds of styrofoam.  They went into the engineering room and learned how molds were designed as packaging molds to protect products during shipment.  They were able to see how molds are tested for strength.  The girls saw polystyrene in it's chemical form that appears to look like salt.  The polystyrene comes packaged in huge bags the size of a small car.  The girls walked into the room where the chemical polystyrene is loaded into a machine and popped like popcorn to make the characteristic beads that are molded together to create styrofoam.  Next, they went onto the production floor and saw the beaded styrofoam pushed through a machine, heated and misted with water to push the molds out and then collected and packaged. Anywhere from 10-50% of recycled styrofoam can be used in a new packaging molds based on the density and strength needed in the packaging.  Thus, Foam Fabricators must create new foam on a daily basis to meet the demand from the companies that contract to supply packaging molds.  Foam Fabricators is the number one supplier for military styrofoam to cushion and package guns and ammunition. They also contract with TV manufacturers, wine sellers, window and door frame companies to name just a few.  It was also interesting to note that many schools, plays and churches purchase large volumes of styrofoam that have been molded into recognizable items like, crosses, school mascots and props for plays and productions.  Styrofoam is lightweight and easily transportable and can be painted to look like heavy-weight items.
The girls most enjoyed the recycle room where they were able to karate-chop as much styrofoam as their heart desired.  I do believe this was the highlight of our Foam Fabricator tour!

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