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Rotary Club of Vero Beach's War on Plastic

Tania Ortega-Cowan

The Rotary Club of Vero Beach is waging a war on plastic. To find out more, we tracked down…

MK: Mike Kanuka and I am the president of the Rotary Club of Vero Beach.

Kanuka explains the moment they knew it was time to go to battle.

MK: That was last year. We had completed our third year of a major fundraiser at Riverside Park. What we were disappointed with was how the environment was treated, and because of the fact that there was so much plastic, we thought we could do a better job.

So when Kanuka became president last July, he sent the membership a survey.…

MK: And we said what would you like to do? Well of course the membership came back and said – we’d like to do everything! But what we would really like to focus on is the environment. Then enter…Dan Compas who joins our group

DC: I’m Dan Compas, co-chair of the engagement committee for the Rotary Club of Vero Beach

Compas then recruited Chris Ellis, a manager at Publix, into the club.

MK: And Chris and the alignment with Dan and our focus was so perfect, the discussion started.

The result is a county wide plastic bags recycling collaboration project with Rotary Club of Vero Beach, Publix and the Indian River County School District. Receptacles for plastic bags are now in each school and Publix recycles the bags. Here is Compas:

DC: This project has now been in place for about 45 days. The Rotary Club paid for the receptacles.

The Indian River County School District installed them and trained the staff, and now they are available for students to deposit plastic bags instead of in the trash. Once the receptacles are full of plastic bags …

DC: …someone from the school will take them to their nearest Publix store. And Publix has a program where they recycle all of the plastic bags.

TOC: And then they don’t end up in the whale stomachs. We are seeing this!

DC: Amen.

MK: Yes.

DC: Yes. It is a major effort we need to look at from a worldwide perspective. The environment is something that is very precious to all of us.

MK: Our hope is that the kids as they are educated with this program and maybe they are even incentivized by teachers to really embrace this, that we are going to have these kids tell everybody what they are doing at the school.

Compas is taking the battle further now to include commercial-only plastic wrap – not the kind you have in the kitchen pantry. They have just started a pilot program in collaboration with the Indian River County Solid Waste Disposal District.

DC: Our project is film recycling, which is shrink wrap recycling ..

Walking Tree Brewery, Coastal Van Lines, and the Indian River County School District…

DC: …are collecting film and they are going to take those bags of film to the convenience centers here in the county and they are going to bundle all of that film and then they sell it to organizations that make plastic tables, plastic furniture.

MK: I don’t think a lot of people realize how much plastic is used because when you order an appliance lets just say, its covered with plastic – around and around and around for protection.

The commercial film is everywhere. And what happens to it?

MK: It’s going into the landfill and that is completely unacceptable.

Next, they plan to explore other industries, including the marine industry where the opportunity will be to recycle plastic wrap used on new boats.

DC: This could be huge in terms of going to commercial organizations that get pallets of product in where those pallets are shrink wrapped, and that film has gone to the landfill. So if we can collaborate with the county and these organizations to provide receptacles, the efforts we are making – it’s a start. And hopefully we are making a difference.

Learn more by following this link: www.rotaryofverobeach.com