Ten new benches will be placed throughout the city by the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department later this year thanks to the effort of many Hilliard students, fourth- and fifth-graders at Dublin's Scottish Corners Elementary School and members of Girl Scout Troop 229.
Since last summer, the students have collected 2,170 pounds of plastic bottle caps.
Recreation and parks department employees took the bottle caps to Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana, and brought back 10 molded-plastic benches made from recycled caps.
The idea began with Kim Movshin, secretary of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission and the organizer of Hilliard's annual Earth Day observance.
"I wanted to do something bigger than usual for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day," Movshin said.
Observed each April 22, the first Earth Day, meant to promote environmental protection, was held in 1970, Movshin said.
The benches would have been unveiled at the city's Earth Day celebration that was scheduled Saturday, April 25, but like many other activities, the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"We hope we can do a modified version at some point," Movshin said.
Among the students who helped collect bottle caps were members of Girl Scout Troop 229, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4931.
"We collected 119 pounds, which we think was about 20,000 caps," said troop leader Penny Lonsway.
Many were collected by the girls' families, but several businesses, including Fearless Nutrition on Hilliard-Rome Road, contributed caps, as well.
"It was a lot of work to do the sorting and (sometimes) cleaning, (but) I think it was good to help," said Allison Lonsway, a 10-year-old student at Scioto Darby Elementary School, a Girl Scout and Penny Lonsway's daughter.
Fourth- and fifth-graders in Earth Club at Scottish Corners Elementary School also contributed to the effort.
Stacey Charbel, a fifth-grade teacher at Scottish Corners, said she saw the activity on Hilliard's Go Green website and marshaled the school's students.
"I'm always looking for a hands-on project for the kids," said Charbel, who said she became acutely aware of the amount of plastic waste in the world while snorkeling with her husband in Asia.
Charbel already had shared with her class the environmental efforts of Florida-based 4Ocean before asking that they help collect bottle caps for Hilliard's project.
Sarah Johnson, a fifth-grade student at Scottish Corners, said she joined Earth Club to make a difference for her generation.
"It makes me feel sad (to see) animals and other nature dying because of what we did," she said. "We only have one planet, and if we don't take care of it, what will happen?"
Referencing the Pixar movie "WALL-E," Sarah said she wants to make other students aware of the perils of damaging the environment by poor recycling.
Joining with other students, it "feels like a really strong group of people that can change the world," she said.
Club members made several "goby" fish-shaped containers and placed them throughout the school, Charbel said.
The fun designs encouraged the other students to "feed the goby" bottle caps, Charbel said.
"It was one of the best Earth Club projects we did all year," Sarah said.
The bottle caps donated to Green Tree Plastics will be used to replenish those used to make the 10 benches that Hilliard received.
Other groups and schools that took part in the collection effort include the Hilliard Bradley High School Jag Ambassadors, the Bradley High School Interact Club, the Hilliard Davidson High School Interact Club and Hilliard Memorial Middle School.
One of the benches will be placed at Hilliard's Cross Creek Park, for the efforts of Hilliard Crossing Elementary School's Choose to Lead group. Another was provided to the Girl Scouts for placement; the rest will be placed in the city's parks and pools, said Hilliard City Council Vice President Pete Marsh, council liaison for the Environmental Sustainability Commission.