‘I’m exhausted!’ cried Rascal as he sat down next to his friends. ‘I never thought that planting one million trees would be such hard work,’ he added breathlessly.
‘Rascal, don’t exaggerate!’ Pola laughed. ‘One million trees will be planted in the whole country, we planted only 100… or maybe 200 seedlings.’
‘Ha, ha, ha!’ laughed the kitten. ‘The bison and the bear dug 50 holes each. They have the right to say they’re tired, but you… I saw you only planted one pine and two oaks. That’s a far cry from one million!’ Tola started to laugh loudly.
The three friends had been taking part in the environmental initiative “Let’s plant million trees” since the early morning. Citizens from the neighbourhood gathered in their beloved forest to plant as many seedlings as possible. Roe deer, wild boars and even bisons had been digging holes in the ground and planting pines, spruces, and oaks. They all knew that the more trees there are, the more pure water circulates in the environment.
After planting trees, everyone sat down in a forest clearing to have a rest after their work. When there were no more free picnic blankets, the Brown Bear, the Mayor, stood up to give a speech.
‘My dear citizens, thank you all for taking part in this year’s project to plant one million trees. I have a little surprise for you. Tomorrow in the afternoon, we will organise a competition in our town square. The competition rewards whoever can make the most interesting and the most useful things made of PET bottles. The most skilful engineers from the whole country will come to our town…’
‘PET bottles?’ The animals started to repeat with astonishment.
‘Yes. These are the bottles from which you’ve been drinking water today. All the bottles that you have taken with you for this picnic will be transformed by Ms Wolf’s team for a new use. I have a request for you; something that will streamline the whole competition. After the picnic is over, please separate all the litter. Put the PET bottles, paper and plastic in different bins, we will use the clean bottles in tomorrow’s competition. Doing this, everyone will contribute to giving these bottles a second life.’
‘That’s a cool idea!’ called out the animals.
‘I’m pleased to see that you´ve agreed to help us,’ Ms Wolf replied in a cheery mood. ‘I need a volunteer today who will help me separate the litter. I need to prepare for tomorrow’s competition, so unfortunately, I will not be able to stay with you until the end of the picnic. Is there anyone who would like to help to collect all the bottles and put them into the yellow container?’ asked Ms Wolf.
The containers were located at the edge of the clearing, each of them for a different type of waste: the red one for glass, the blue one for paper, and the yellow one for plastic. The animals took a glance at the containers and then looked at each other.
Rascal has always dreamed of becoming an engineer, so he wanted to help Ms Wolf in her preparations. In a blink of an eye he appeared right next to her and volunteered to help.
‘Excuse me. Mayor, Ms Wolf, I will help to separate the litter!’ he called.
‘Wonderful!’ The Brown Bear cheered up. ‘But I want you to remember that the litter should be separated in the right way. We prepared the yellow container for plastic.’
‘Of course!’ called out Rascal and went back to his friends, feeling very proud of himself.
The picnic took another few hours but the kitten and the owl went back to their homes much earlier. Rascal had to wait until the last person left the clearing before he could start to separate the litter. Unfortunately, he fell asleep while he was waiting. When he woke up, it was already dark. Everyone had left the forest and must have been at home in bed; but luckily, they had brought their litter next to the containers. The litter was already separated into piles of paper, plastic, and glass.
‘Great, they separated the litter. Cool,’ he whispered to himself and sighed with relief. ‘OK, so what did the Mayor say? Plastic PET bottles in the red container…’ Rascal was trying to recall the rules and threw some of the bottles into the red container. Then, suddenly, he became nervous . ‘No, no, no, it’s not the red one… maybe blue?’ He threw some bottles into the blue container but then he changed his mind again. Finally, there was only one bottle left, and all the litter was mixed in all three containers.
‘Oh dear… I’m going to get in trouble,’ thought Rascal. He decided that he would go back to the clearing at dawn and try to make up for his mistake.
The next day, crowds of people gathered in the town square as early as at 7 o’clock in the morning. There were 5 teams preparing their stands and waste containers. Rascal quickly pushed through the crowd to tell Ms Wolf what he had done. Unfortunately, the contestant was so busy preparing the devices that her team wanted to use, that she had no time to talk to the concerned doggy.
When she finally came back to her stand, it was already too late. The judge took the microphone and officially announced the beginning of the competition.
‘Dear engineers, welcome to our city. I’m glad that you took the trouble to came here from all regions of Poland. I would like to briefly remind you of the rules of our competition. Every team is allowed to use only those plastic bottles which they managed to gather in their containers. You will all have half an hour to clean and carefully cut your bottles into the PET granulate. The next step is up to you. I think that our audience does not expect what the second life of a PET bottle may look like. I hope you’ll manage to surprise them! I wish you all good luck!’
‘Are you ready?’ asked the Mayor, but didn’t wait for the teams’ reply. He raised his hand and called at the top of his voice. ‘The competition starts now!’
Too-too-too-toom! – sounded the trumpets.
All teams immediately got down to work and poured out the contents of their containers. Most teams had properly separated the waste, so they quickly threw their bottles into the cleaning machine. After a while, they were able to move on to the next step, which was cutting the bottles into tiny granules.
Ms Wolf grabbed the container and poured out its contents. Just imagine her astonishment, when she saw not only PET bottles, but also paper, apple cores, glass bottles and much more litter of a different kind that had been left after the picnic.
‘Rascal, what is this? Did you confuse containers? Where is our container with PET bottles?’ she asked terrified.
Rascal bowed his head in shame and blushed.
‘Well, I, I’m so sorry, I forgot what you had said about the containers. I confused them. I don’t know how it happened. I know that the yellow container is for plastic and the red one is for glass but yesterday I got too distracted.’
Ms Wolf sighed but decided not to give up.
‘Listen, team! All hands on deck! Come here, we will quickly separate the litter. Throw the PET bottles into the cleaning machine. Put all papers to the right and all glass items to the left. I won’t be able to do this without you, we can make it by working as a team!’ she ordered.
The citizens who took part in the yesterday’s picnic rushed towards Rascal and Ms Wolf to help. The litter was literally flying around in the air; that´s how quickly everyone was working. After less than 20 minutes all the waste was separated – with even greater care than they had given day before. Ms Wolf took a short glance at her rivals. The Moose and the Heron had already finished cutting their bottles into tiny granulates. The two other competitors decided to cut their bottles in a different manner.
Because of the incorrectly separated litter, Ms Wolf lost about 20 minutes. But this didn’t mean that her team had no chance to win.
‘Take it easy Rascal, we can make it. But for this, I need your help. Without you, I won’t manage to do everything on time. Please, plait a big basket from the leftover plastic bottles.’
‘A big basket? Like those wicker ones used for shopping?’ asked puzzled Rascal.
‘No!’ Ms Wolf laughed. ‘I need a basket big enough for people to sit in it. I will figure out how to produce a suitable fabric and then sew our surprise.’
For the next several hours every team was busy producing various materials like fabrics and mats. Everyone in the town market was surprised by how many different objects could be produced from empty plastic bottles. After a few hours, the Mayor, who was also a judge, finally announced the end of the competition.
‘My dear, I hope that you all managed to convert plastic bottles into something new and astonishing. It’s time to end our competition. Please, present your work in front of your stands. The committee and I will choose the best project.’
The audience were thrilled with the final products of the competition.
The Moose presented a green hooded fleece top.
‘Good job! What a beautiful colour! And look at this fabric!’ complimented the Brown Bear. ‘We give you 4 points.’
The Heron created a baby gym.
‘That’s a brilliant idea. 4,5 points.’
The Woodpecker used the bottles to make a baby toy and the Roe Deer created pens.
Then the committee saw a big colourful canvas lying on the ground, a basket made of plastic bottles, and something that looked like an old gas burner.
The Brown Bear looked at Ms Wolf’s work with astonishment.
‘Ms Wolf… did you make a carpet?’ he asked. The carpet was rippled and attached to the gas burner and the basket. ‘Did you forget that you were supposed to prepare something useful? I’m sorry, but we can only give you 1 point.’
‘Excuse me, judge, but this is not a carpet.’
Suddenly, they turned on the burner and a large flame appeared above it. Animals gathered around and took the colourful carpet in their hands, raising it from the ground. After a while, everyone saw a marvellously colourful hot air balloon ready to set off!
‘Wooow!’ yelled the crowd.
‘Well, well, well. Congratulations! This is a really impressive second life for plastic bottles!’
As you can probably guess, Ms Wolf and her team received the most points and won the competition. And Rascal finally memorized that…
the yellow container is for plastic,
the blue container is for paper,
and the red container is for glass.