Junior League World Series

Posted on: August 8, 2017

Junior League World Series recycles plastic bottle caps to turn them into high-quality benches

Junior League World Series Baseball logo

DSC_3091 Three benches rs

Collecting and recycling plastic bottle caps has turned into a grand slam for organizers of the Junior League Baseball World Series in Taylor.

Thousands of pounds of the caps have been turned into 10 high-quality, heavy-duty, 185-pound, six-foot benches that have been place on the grounds of World Series Field and in the nearby Taylor Community Library. And there are plans for many more around Heritage Park.

The World Series attracts the best teams of 13- and 14-year-old ballplayers from around the globe to the Taylor South Little League in Heritage Park. The 37th annual international tournament gets under way with opening ceremonies on Sunday and four games on Sunday.

Just over a year ago, JLWS founder and Director Greg Bzura learned of a project at the Lincoln Park American Little League that involved collecting plastic caps and exchanging them for heavy-duty park equipment made by Green Tree Plastics, a recycling company in Evansville, Indiana.

Suzanne Machczynski, who has been involved in keeping statistics for the World Series since its inception in 1981 and is currently lead statistician, said she and Joann Roach (a fellow Lincoln Park league board member and fellow JLWS volunteer) have been exchanging caps for plastic benches for three years with great success. To date, they have delivered more than 4,000 pounds of caps – and a $200 processing fee per bench – and brought home eight benches for the park at LeBlanc and River Drive.

The program has since shifted to the Lincoln Park Auxiliary Booster Club, a fundraising organization founded by Machczynski and Roach.

“We thought it was a good idea to get the community involved to keep plastic out of the landfills, to reduce liquid waste in trash cans and to make trash can bags lighter to pull out and easier to transport,” Machczynski said. “The kids just love it. If they see a Gatorade bottle or a pop bottle or a water bottle in the trash, they remove the plastic top.”

The duo urged Bzura to pursue the recycling program in Taylor, he thought it was worthwhile and it didn’t take long for the idea to take off. In the first year, Bzura and his team have collected thousands of pounds of bottle caps, delivered them in rental trucks to Evansville and received 10 benches from Green Tree.

Eight of the black and gray benches have been installed by volunteers on the grounds surrounding World Series Field and two others were delivered by Taylor Parks and Recreation employees to the Taylor Community Library – one of the main sites for cap collections.

The World Series has had plenty of early help collecting plastic caps. Dearborn Heights resident Lorraine McFee and her Council of Catholic Women Archdiocese of Detroit had already been saving caps for a couple years for a plastic recycling drive in Florida that purchased wheelchairs for youngsters who couldn’t afford them. The local women’s group discovered it was cost-prohibitive to send the plastic to Florida and researched other options.

An article in the church bulletin at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Allen Park talked about the Taylor Library being a collection site for the Junior League World Series project started by Bzura. Mrs. McFee’s son, Daryl, is one of the volunteer announcers with the streaming video service that broadcasts the games around the world via the website www.ustream.tv/channel/jlws. Daryl put his mom in touch with Bzura.

“We had been collecting bottle caps like crazy for two or three years already” and storing them at a home in West Bloomfield, said Mrs. McFee, a past president Catholic women’s group and current officer. “It’s such an easy thing to do. We’re trying to save the planet. It doesn’t cost anything.

“We told the ladies to keep collecting. We told Mr. Bzura we will collect for you. We’re still working for youth and it’s a good cause. These kids are coming from all over the world to Taylor.”

Word of the plastic bottle cap collection spread. Collection containers are set up outside Mayor Rick Sollars’ office at City Hall, in churches and various other locations. Bzura said he picks up loads of caps from the library twice a month.

Lifelong World Series volunteer Jeff Pizzo, who does a host of jobs for the series all year long, got a major effort going with his co-workers at Ford Motor Co., where he is a Route Site Power and Utility supervisor. The fields at Taylor South are named for Pizzo’s son Sam, one of the league’s builders. Ford now helps store major quantities of caps.

A group of early-childhood students and teacher-prep students at Baker College learned of the bottle cap drive while visiting the library and took on the project for Early Childhood Education Student Chapter 2016-2017.

Chapter leadership members Catherine Kenson of Dearborn and Amira Barkaji and Angela Cassizzi, both of Melvindale, have dropped off thousands of plastic caps at the library. Kenson soon became known as “the bottle cap lady.”

“It’s a good feeling to recycle,” Barkaji said. “It’s a community effort – something our chapter could do.”

Taylor Library Director Theresa Powers said she appreciated all of the donations, which eventually led to two benches for additional seating in the library.

“We’ve been collecting here for two years maybe,” Powers said. “It’s just taken off.”

Bzura, his son Phil, Pizzo and his son Marcus transported 100 boxes filled with about 4,500 pounds of caps in a 16-foot rental truck to Evansville and returned to Taylor with the 10 benches. Bzura said the community-wide effort has included about $2,000 in donations to cover the overhead costs of Green Tree and transportation.

“Because of the immense cooperation, the success of recycling and the partnerships we have with so many people, we must keep going,” Bzura said. “Right now, I’m saying we’ll get more benches. The city is with us. The benches are sturdy. They’re solid plastic. I’ve got to believe we can go well beyond the 10 we have. This is a big park. It’s now grown into a Heritage Park project.”

Bzura said they’ll look into obtaining bigger benches, tables and various decorative sculptures out of the Green Tree catalog – maybe even colorful bleachers.

“The city may want some benches by the splash pad and other parts of Heritage Park,” Bzura said. “They help us, we help them. Taylor is a tremendous Little League city.”

DSC_3135 Three on a bench

DSC_5859 Bottle Cap Collectors


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