CORNVILLE — What do you get when you recycle plastic home care products such as toothpaste tubes, deodorant and mouthwash bottles?

Well, at the Cornville Regional Charter School, you get construction planks made from the recycled material to build vegetable garden frames — and you divert plastic containers from the landfill.

The school recently won the grand prize in a recycling contest sponsored by Tom’s of Maine, Hannaford and TerraCycle by getting the most online votes, said Angela Dunton, the school’s agriculture instructor. The prize was $1,000 for gardening materials and the recycled lumber for the gardens.

“The winner was based on getting the most votes,” Dunton said Friday as construction of the beds got underway amid a din of screw guns and a rush of activity. “People had to vote for our school. They had 15,000 votes and we had 42 percent of them.”

The voting was done on the TerraCycle web site. The school was the winner of 48 2-by-6-inch planks, each four feet long, made from recycled home waste for garden beds. The contest was open to schools enrolled in the Hannaford Helps Schools initiative through TerraCycle’s Natural Care Recycling Program.

“The planks are made completely of recycled materials and are used to create special frames for our aquaponics unit because they won’t rot,” Dunton said. “I’m also designing raised custom beds for our greenhouse.”

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture, or raising fish, and hydroponics, growing plants without soil — fish and plants grown together in one integrated system. Dunton said she uses goldfish.

The finished product will be eight 75-gallon plastic tanks, open at the top, where the veggies will be grown, Dunton said.

“We’re going to grow a whole variety of vegetables in them,” she said. “Part of them will be experimental for the kids to learn, and part of them will go into our lunch program.”

Dunton’s classroom already has an aquaponics unit growing 48 Swiss chard plants. Dunton said she also has an order for 50 pounds of Swiss chard for the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences on the Good Will-Hinckley campus in Fairfield, which produces the charter school’s lunches in its kitchens.

“They want to buy the Swiss chard, so it will come back to us in our lunch,” she said.

The 48 planks arrived in January and were stored in a shipping container on school property.

The products that are recycled for the program aren’t normal recyclables.

“What you can recycle through the TerraCycle Brigades is stuff that isn’t recyclable through your average municipality,” said Susan Dewhirst of Tom’s of Maine, a natural products company that makes toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, antiperspirant, deodorant, bar soap, lip balm and baby shampoo and lotion products. “It’s basically stuff that would go into the landfill.”

The Natural Care Recycling Program is a free recycling program and is open to any individual, school, office, or organization that wants to protect the planet and make a difference, TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said in a release for Friday’s construction ceremony.

“Having a garden made from recycled natural care products is a great way to learn about the environment,” Szaky said. “Not only can the students learn about growing food, but they can learn about protecting the environment through recycling.”

For each piece of waste sent in using a prepaid shipping label, collectors earn money that is donated to the school or a charity of their choice.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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