At Harvesters’ Kansas Distribution Center in Topeka, food is always on the move.  Many products are wrapped in tight, stretchable plastic, much of which wasn’t included in our regular recycling.

“We’re doing our best to solve the issue of hunger that is facing our community, and food insecurity, but that doesn’t mean that has to be the only good we do for the community,” said Erin Lowe, Harvesters volunteer and past AmeriCorps member.

While serving as an AmeriCorps member with Harvesters, Erin was tasked with outreach to local civic clubs.  She met Charlene from the Topeka Sunflower Lions Club in the process.  Sunflower Lions Club had an existing recycling program, picking up stretchable plastic from places around Topeka.

“It’s a wonderful program.  It has been great not only for our Lions Club, but it’s great for the community,”said Bobby Duvall, with Topeka Sunflower Lions Club.
The club began collecting plastic from Harvesters in the spring of 2021. The Lions make weekly pick-ups from our Topeka facility.

“When we got to going to Harvesters to pick up plastic, our numbers went way up,” said Vern Failor with the Topeka Sunflower Lions Club.

All the plastic collected is weighed, then marked by pounds and logged for a running total. The tally is submitted to decking company, Trex.  Once 500 pounds of plastic is recycled, Trex turns that plastic into a beautiful park bench.  The first Sunflower Lions Club bench now sits in Topeka’s Noto Arts District.  A second bench will be installed in the same area soon.  A third bench will be ordered this fall.

“I think that the plastic project is a great way to make sure that our approach to helping the community is comprehensive, and that we really looking at all the ways our work is interacting with things like plastic use and waste and the way we can help mitigate some of our impact, and make the community a better place,” Lowe said.

On average, Harvesters is giving 162 pounds of stretchable plastic to the Sunflower Lions club every single week.  That puts us on pace to keep 8,424 pounds of plastic out of landfills every year.

The benches now serve as a beautiful reminder that we can all do something to make our planet better.