Members of Faith Presbyterian Church of Indian Land, SC, sought to be good global citizens. They looked for ways to be actively involved in addressing the environmental crisis in the world on a scale that allowed them to make a difference. They found a way to put their faith, their energy, and their neighborly connections into a small, tangible project that grew into a broad community service.

Rev. David Bender tells this congregation’s story:

We found an organization called Trex, a manufacturer of wood-alternative composite decking, railing, and other outdoor items made from recycled materials. The company offers plastics recycling programs (NexTrex) to school and community groups which provided a project that our small congregation (150 members) could take on.

Congregation members began collecting clean, soft plastics (grocery bags, overwrap, Ziploc bags, dry cleaner bags, etc.). Our first recyclable collections came from our members, and then from friends and family who wanted to join in on the project. We even had family across the state and country helping collect!

Each month, a team gathers at the church to process and compact the bags of plastic that folks have collected. Before Covid, there were collection bins set up in our buildings and folks dropped off their plastic weekly. We transitioned to offer a monthly drive-through for people to bring their collected plastics to the church, which folks seem to like even better.

Our volunteer collectors compact the collected plastic, weigh it, and record the weight, before taking the bags to a local participating grocery store. The grocery ships the plastics to Trex along with their own plastic bag recycling. (Donation sites can be found at the NexTrex website).

We report the poundage of each month’s collection on the NexTrex website. When we reach 500 pounds, we qualify to receive a Trex bench made of recycled plastic material. Community groups can earn up to 2 benches per year. Our first bench was placed at our church’s columbarium. We donated another to the county Children’s Home. The project has expanded beyond our small congregation as we partnered with a smaller neighboring church to earn a bench with them. We never imagined that our initial recycling project would let us give gifts to our neighbors, too.

It has been a fun and rewarding project for our members and has become an intergenerational project with the help of a 9-year-old member who comes to “squash” the plastic each month so her retired friends don’t have to do that part! Being a good neighbor to our shared earth, collecting recyclable plastics from our church and from neighbors in our larger community, has proven to be a relatively simple project with a broad impact.

Rev. Bender shares a video summary of the Faith congregation’s recycling project here.

Rev. Dr. David Bender

is pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, Indian Land, SC.