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Occoquan officials, including Mayor Ernie Porta, center, recently dedicated a bench at the town dock that was donated because of an effort to collect and recycle 500 pounds of plastic bags. 

Occoquan’s Town Dock has a new bench made of recycled plastic, and another is expected to be delivered soon, thanks to local businesses’ efforts to collect plastic bags for recycling.

Patriot Scuba, located on Mill Street in Occoquan, is leading the effort. Merial Currer, co-owner of Patriot Scuba, said she got the idea from another town in Virginia that participated in Trex’s “Bags to Benches” program and thought it was something that could benefit Occoquan.

“The two biggest complaints I hear about the town is there is nowhere to sit and not enough parking,” Currer said.

Trex is a company that manufactures and sells outdoor decking made of recycled plastic. 

Its Bags to Benches recycling program allows organizations to earn a bench by collecting 500 pounds of plastic bags and plastic film, such as bread bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves and ice bags. 

Patriot Scuba started collecting bags Feb. 1 and had six months to reach their goal. They reached 500 pounds of bags in May and kept going.

So far, they have collected 1,089 pounds of bags. Currer said they decided to split the amount with, Pretentious Gourmet, a nearby ice cream shop and bakery, which will turn in another 500 pounds for the second bench.

Patriot Scuba is now collecting for a third bench.

“We are just going to keep going,” Currer said. “We’ve been here 10 years and we love the town.”

People can continue to drop off bags at Patriot Scuba. “They know they can drop them out front at night, and I will bring them in in the morning,” she said.

The biggest contributor has been Action in Community Through Service. “People donate stuff in plastic bags and they bring them to us, piles of bags,” Currer said. “It’s been really neat to see the community involvement.”

Five hundred pounds of plastic bags equates to 49,500 grocery bags. Laid end to end, they would stretch about 10 miles, Currer said.

Periodically, Patriot Scuba weighs the bags and turns them into the nearby Giant grocery store which in turn sells them to Trex.

Patriot Scuba has addressed Occoquan’s parking situation as well by sponsoring a shuttle to from the Va. 123 commuter parking lot to bring people to town for certain events. Currer said she hopes other organizations in town will follow their lead and continue to sponsor shuttles in the future.

"Jeff and Merial Currer at Patriot Scuba are both wonderful people and wonderful corporate citizens of Occoquan. They generously and regularly initiate and promote community-minded projects that benefit the town, its residents and the community at large. Their Bags to Benches program is a great example,” said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta. “We're truly lucky to have them in Occoquan and we're grateful to all the people who helped them by donating to this effort."

For more information about Bags to Benches, visit www.trex.com/recycling/recycling-programs.

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