We are all aware that recycling is good for the planet. Recycling keeps plastic out of our oceans and landfills. It protects ecosystems and wildlife, and recycling lowers the demand on natural resources. Fortunately, there are two local groups actively recycling on a large scale — and helping countless people in the process.
A bench at Holy Rosary
When a parks grant was awarded to the Duryea Betterment Committee in 2022, Councilwoman Stephanie Shupp and Trina Moss perused Duryea’s parks to see where best to spend the grant money. A woman with her grandson struck up a conversation asking if they had heard of NexTrex supplying a bench in exchange for 500 pounds of plastic waste.
After looking into the arrangement, Shupp and Moss decided it would be beneficial for the community, so they forged ahead with the planning. Shupp contacted Holy Rosary School wondering if they might ask families to donate plastic. She suggested the eighth grade students have a part in earning the bench, which would then become their gift from the Class of 2023. Holy Rosary Principal Melissa Skutack, jumped at the idea to help.
And so, it began.
To date, 375 of the needed 500 pounds has been collected between Holy Rosary, the Duryea Municipal Building and Komensky’s Market.
“We have three drop-off containers and are grateful for every donation — large or small,” Shupp said. “In the beginning, we were getting donations that weighed less than a pound, and I panicked a little, thinking ‘How will we ever get to 500 pounds?’ Fortunately, it took off and the community really came through for us. About 80% of the donations have come from HRS families. It’s wonderful having a school that is so willing to work with the community. The response has really been overwhelming.”
“We are also thankful to the Duryea Weis Market for partnering with us. The first time I showed up with enormous bags of plastic and more plastic, I’m not sure that’s what they were expecting,” Shupp said with a chuckle.
“October to April was our original six-month span to collect 500 pounds of plastic. Fortunately, we will have achieved that by the end of January,” reported Shupp, who hopes that this will be the first of many new benches in Duryea.
Holy Rosary eighth grade students were a vital part of the process. Under the direction of their teacher, Debbie Brady, students reached out to local businesses asking for donations of their unwanted plastics. Additionally, they donated plastics and encouraged younger students to do the same.
The bench will be placed in the Holy Rosary playground as there is currently no place to sit.
“One day, the kids might move away and come home. When they visit their alma mater, they’ll be able to say ‘We worked for that bench and are proud that it is our Class of 2023 gift,’” said Shupp.
A variety of plastic items are being collected for the project, including grocery bags, bread bags, bubble wrap, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, ice bags, plastic shipping envelopes, resealable food storage bags, cereal bags, case overwrap, salt bags, pallet wrap, wood pellet bags and produce bags. Please note, all plastic must be clean, dry and free of food residue.
Blankets for the homeless at Holy Mother of Sorrows
In Dupont, volunteers meet at Holy Mother of Sorrows Parish Hall on Wyoming Avenue to make mats, straps to carry them, pillows, prayer shawls, lap blankets and more. These surprisingly warm and comfortable items — all made from plastic bags — are then blessed by the Very Rev. Zbigniew Dawid, pastor, and donated to churches and police stations to be given to people without housing or to veterans’ hospitals.
Corky Krupp, of Forty Fort, generously teaches anyone who would like to learn how to recycle grocery store bags into meaningful, helpful, practical items.
“I have helped people all over the valley. From the Pittston Library, to Forty Fort First Presbyterian Church, to Holy Mother of Sorrows here in Dupont, and beyond,” Krupp said. “We have great volunteers and are always looking for more. People can come once a month, twice a month, or pick up supplies and work from home. Whatever works for them — and we always serve lunch.”
There are many steps required prior to making a mat. First, donations of plastic bags are sorted into like bags — Redner’s with Redner’s, Weis with Weis. Next, they are folded a specific way. Then, the tops and bottoms of the bags are snipped off, and the bags are cut into strips so they create loops. The loops are then tied together. Finally, rolling the loops together, a ball is formed. (Picture a ball of yarn.) Nothing goes to waste in this process. Pat Welter, West Pittston, even uses the discarded tops and bottoms of bags for pillow stuffing.
Now, the real fun begins. Using the large ball of prepared bags, it is finally time to begin crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats.
“From start to finish, it takes about 400 bags and two weeks to make one mat,” explained Lois McHugh, of Pittston.
“I enjoy this because everyone is important. Everyone has a role,” said Ruth O’Dell, Wilkes-Barre.
“It gets me out of the house and gives me something to do,” said Warren Pollard, of West Pittston.
Joyce Jopling, of Dupont, added, “We come for the socialization and knowing that we are helping people who could really use a little bit of help right now. It’s a good feeling to know that you’re helping others, and they know people care about them.”
Donations of plastic bags are needed and may be left on the stairs of the church hall. Volunteers meet at 10 a.m. the first and third Thursday of every month. All are welcome and encouraged to attend meetings and help with this ministry.