What happened to all those small recycle bins that were replaced with the larger carts?

Tampa area man recycles the recycle bins for kids

BRANDON - Wednesday is watering day for the first-grade farmers at Villa Madonna School in Tampa Heights.

A neat row of about 20 plastic boxes filled with rich dark soil sits on the playground topped with promising shoots of watermelon, cantaloupe, kale and cabbage.

Not all the kids are wild about kale, but this playground planting was made possible courtesy of Rex Stanford, a man who figured the thousands of recently retired recycling bins would be perfect for gardening.

"The idea originally was for a business. But when I worked it out, I realized I really wanted to start teaching kids how to do this kind of stuff," Stanford said.

So Stanford set about collecting the bins in a rented truck by the thousands, adapting them to make planter boxes that are portable, water efficient and nearly bug proof.

"The fact that these are sealed means that no bugs are getting in from underground. No nematodes, no ants or anything like that," Stanford said.

Stanford said the waste management company let him take the bins for free from neighborhoods where they're swapping out the old bins for the new, larger containers with wheels. His only expense is the gas and labor to pick them up. His payment comes from seeing students discover the joy of getting their hands dirty and learning where food really come from,

"So many have never seen things growing. They go to the store, pull it off the shelf and have no idea what it's been through," Stanford said.

Villa Madonna teacher Tiffany Dawson said there's another life lesson.  

"You always talk about recycling and putting things into use, but the kids never get to see it first hand, and I think this will give them a good connection and be able to relate to it," Dawson said.

Rex Stanford invites school officials and community centers to request donations of grow boxes through his website, www.hopegrowers.org .

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