CRPS buddy bench update

In this photo from January 2020, Crystal River Primary School's eco club member Jaxon Palmer and third-grade teacher Beth Cooper sort and weigh one week's worth of plastic bottle caps and lids to recycle and use as currency to purchase buddy benches for the playground. At the end of the school year in May, the school estimates, they more than doubled their goal of collecting 650 pounds.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Crystal River Primary School started a campaign to collect plastic bottle caps and lids to recycle.

As an “eco” school, they had a two-fold goal: to be good stewards of the planet and help save the environment and also to use the plastic as currency to purchase buddy benches made from recycled plastic for the playground.

Buddy benches are used as a way for kids to make friends. If someone sits on one, that’s a signal that they want someone to play with.

The original goal was to collect 650 pounds of plastic caps and lids by May 2020, enough to trade for three buddy benches, one for each playground.

The school’s Parent Teacher Organization had planned to deliver the mountains of plastic to

Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana, sometime this past summer in exchange for the benches to be installed by the time school started in August.

Then came the coronavirus this past spring and disrupted much of everyday life, especially for schools.

And even though the buddy benches won’t be on the playgrounds on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, they’re still in the plans, said CRPS principal Donnie Brown.

“We collected more than enough (caps and lids) — we were inundated, so we’re happy about that,” Brown said. “Right now that PTO has them in storage until we’re ready to arrange for them to be transported to Indiana.”

Brown said they’re not in any hurry, but neither are they abandoning this project.

“I keep telling everyone, ‘This is going to pass,’ but for now, we’re on hold,” she said. “We will get back to normal and being able to be together again.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or