Lions Club partners with students to turn recycling into benches and trash cans

Reuse, recycle, relax


For Paris residents, finding a place to recycle plastics nearby can be a hassle, but one local organization is making recycling both accessible and charitable.

Starting roughly five years ago, Lions International Club 330 has partnered with Paris schools to turn plastic lids, pop tabs and more into park benches and trash cans. While the Lions accept donations of certain recyclable materials year-round, students of all ages have added motivation to chip in their own recyclables during the Lions Club Recycle Challenge.

For 30 days, students across all of Paris’ schools can donate recyclable materials on behalf of their grade or class (depending on their age). The grade or class that turns in the most recycling earns a sweet reward – a donut party.

According to Club 330 Vice President and Lions International District 1M Governor Amy Hill, the project not only promotes environmental thoughtfulness, it also gives a resource to anyone using Paris’ parks.

“Doing the caps and the lids keeps them out of the trash, and it gives you somewhere to sit while you fish, right?” Hill explained. “When you’re listening to music in the park, it gives you somewhere to throw your trash.”

Hill estimates the challenge yields several unused hearing aids or dead cell phones, 40 to 50 pounds of pop tabs and no less than 100 pounds of caps and lids. Those donations allow the Lions to acquire four item-benches, trash cans or a combination of both-to be placed throughout the city. Currently, there are several blue and yellow benches and trash cans scattered around both sides of Twin Lakes that are a result of the program.

This year, the challenge took place in March. Hill has yet to announce the winners but looks forward to seeing the groups’ reactions that pulled in the biggest hauls. According to Hill, the competition can become fierce.

“I think they get more excited about the donuts, they really do. But there are some kids that know what’s coming,” she explained. “They will have their little hoard of caps, that way nobody accidentally turns them in… they want that donut. And if they can turn in a Walmart bag full of caps for a donut, we’re all for it. It’s neat to see the look on their faces (when they win).”

Once all the caps and tabs are collected, volunteers like Gracie Wilson, an eighth-grader at Mayo Middle School, sort and clean the items before they are shipped to Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Ind. The recycling company takes yesterday’s plastic scrap and transforms it into the perfect spot to relax and take in the view, or a sleek waste basket.

Wilson has been involved with the Lions Club since she was seven years old and was named a Leo (Junior Lion) at age 12.

“I like to go to meetings and see people. I just like to help out,” said Wilson of her continued involvement with the group.

While the Lions Recycling Challenge is geared toward students, anyone can donate at any time. The entire community is encouraged to get involved and ask a Lion how they can turn in their own plastic stashes.

“Anybody can drop them off,” said Hill.

The project is one of dozens of local charitable efforts the Lions spearhead. Per Hill, the Lions are already expanding their environmental efforts to include shoe recycling, which turns old, used shoes into soft flooring and turf that can be used for a variety of projects.

For anyone who wants to take their involvement to the next level, Hill noted the Lions are always “looking for more members.”

To inquire about donating recycled plastics toward the Lions’ next bench or waste bin, contact Hill at 217-808-2868, or stop by Brad’s Florist for more information. Plastics classified as numbers one, three, six or seven cannot be accepted as part of the program.

The Lions are an international charitable organization first established in 1917. Lions Club 330 meets at Joe’s Pizza on every second and fourth Wednesday of the month.

Lions International Club 330, Paris Schools, Recycling