Last week, officials in the small town of Alleman were notified that their community was leading the competition to collect the most plastic bags and earn the city a park bench that is made entirely from … bags.

Shari Buehler, who works with Alleman’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the community started collecting bags on April 1 and has until April 30 to collect enough bags to win the prize in Metro Waste Authority’s Earth Month Plastic Bag Swap competition. She and others were going into this week hoping that the small town could hold onto its lead for one more week.

No matter what the outcome, however, the bag collection effort has been wonderful for the community and the environment.

“We love our town and know everyone that moves here thinks the same way,” Buehler said and continued, “so it is nice to see the community come together at different events (even a bag collecting competition) and really get acquainted. The friendly small-town atmosphere is wonderful.”

Alleman doesn’t have a park yet, as the town is surrounded by Century Farms, but Buehler said the community is always on the lookout for a little bit of property to put up a community building and have a park.

As residents have come together, dropping off over 123 pounds of bags as they entered the final week, Buehler said the competition has given them a common cause as they work together, not only to win, but also to keep the city clean and tidy. According to Metro Waste, those participating in the Bag Swap have helped keep thousands of plastic films from blowing in neighborhoods, local fields and streams. “Plastic bags are also being kept out of recycling carts, which is a huge win at the recycling sorting facility, because they wrap around machines and prevent recyclables from getting properly sorted,” said Trish Radke, Metro Waste’s program coordinator.

“Alleman already has a good reputation as a very tidy city, and many of our residents take great pride in keeping it that way,” Buehler said.

At the end of last week, Alleman was leading these four communities that are larger in population: Clive, 113 pounds; Prairie City, 82 pounds; Johnson, 63.11 pounds; and Bondurant, 63.03 pounds.

Alleman residents have been bringing their bags into City Hall, where a huge box, decorated by students for fun, is waiting to hold them. “It does get pretty crowded for the clerk,” Buehler noted. She said they’ve had to call Metro Waste frequently to come and gather what has been collected. “Metro Waste comes and gets them, then weighs and bales them up,” she said.

Once the competition ends, Buehler said Metro Waste will take all the bags to a company that makes things out of recycled bags, including park benches. If Alleman wins the bench, Buehler said there is a little spot by City Hall that has a picnic table on it. That table was made by councilman Loren Steinkamp. Also sitting there is a little free library, made by a resident of the city, Mr. Dougherty. The bench will be placed beside those things.

Buehler reminds residents, donations of bags is open until April 30, “so please keep bringing your plastic shopping bags to City Hall at 14000 NE Sixth St.”