Last year, the town of Prosper began the Release, Renew, Recycle Environmental Protection Program, which looked to free water trapped in trashed plastic water bottles, while also encouraging participants to recycle the containers. Recently, the program was featured in the official magazine of the Texas Municipal League, “Texas Town & City,” as an innovative idea and the program could be replicated in other cities.

The program looked to achieve this goal by providing a place for the leftover water in the plastic bottles to be deposited, and a place for the plastic bottles to be recycled. The solution was simple: create large planter boxes, decorate them with vibrant recycling artwork, plant living plants in them, put a recycling bin within reach, and lastly, add the duo to areas that receive high traffic.

“It just serves as a reminder to empty water bottles before you recycle,” Prosper’s Water Education Coordinator Tristan Cisco said. “Park staff was finding full bottles of water in the trash. When it gets buried in land fields, it basically just sits there until something happens to the bottle, until it’s punctured in some way. So it could be trapped there for who knows how long.”

Cisco enlisted the help of several resources to complete the project. The Parks and Recreation Department helped with finding a good location for the planters, deciding where they would be seen the most. Texas A&M AgriLife helped with the solution — the ingredients necessary to make sure the plants were getting enough nutrients. Cristina’s Stone and Garden helped with the plant selections, and members of Prosper High School’s National Art Honor Society created the artwork while the iCandy Grafix Company wrapped the planters with graphic vinyl, helping to protect the designs.

The program has set up five planters in Frontier Park. There are three in the baseball area, and two outside the playground. Moving forward, the program hopes to further expand this idea.

“Texas A&M AgriLife has introduced our program to other cities in Texas who are interested in the program,” Cisco said. “We’re reaching the younger kids too, because that’s where you really have to put your emphasis. We want to educate those students that don’t go to Frontier Park, so that will be a pilot program later on.”

In turn, the program hopes to adhere to its main purpose: to help teach the public ways to recycle and help the environment.

“It’s just easy,” Cisco said. “It doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to get it going. It’s just spreading the knowledge that ‘hey, this water’s here. It’s getting trapped. Let’s use it. And then let’s help save the planet by recycling as well.’ It’s our responsibility to protect our resources. It’s our responsibility to protect our planet, and this is one simple way that even the smallest child can help.”