Saving the world, one bottle at a time

MANATEE — Setting a world record involves a lot of numbers.

That was the case for Shane Henry, a Manatee Community College student, who tried to set the Guinness World Record for the “most plastic bottles counted in an eight-hour period” Wednesday.

He may have succeeded: Between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Henry and his team at the college collected 41,100 bottles, which comes up to about 4,020 pounds.

That surpasses an existing record — 657 pounds of plastic bottles — that Guinness World Record officials told him.

“I feel very good,” Henry said. “It’s overwhelming to hear people say ‘thank you.’ It’s a small idea, but it blew up into something great.”

At first, he wanted to just see how many bottles he could collect at the college on Earth Day, which was Wednesday.

But college officials liked the idea so much, it became a county-wide effort that included the Manatee County public schools, residents and local businesses.

Manatee schools alone contributed 1,500 pounds of plastic bottles, or about 13,600 bottles, said Pat Gallagher, the district’s energy and recycling specialist.

Many county residents, including Bradenton’s Susan Miller Kelly and her two daughters, also helped.

Arriving at MCC’s campus just before the deadline, Kelly and her 8-year-old twins, Caroline and Kathleen, hauled bags of plastic bottles out of her vehicle. After hearing about Henry’s efforts to set the record, Kelly said her family made an effort to save more than 100 plastic bottles that were used at home.

Kathleen was in charge of keeping tabs on the project, Kelly said. It’s also a good way to impart on the kids the importance of recycling.

It’s crucial to recycle “so you can save the Earth and animals,” Kathleen said.

Her mom prompted: How do you do that?

“By not polluting the air and ground, and plastic doesn’t disintegrate,” Caroline replied.

The number of bottles collected Wednesday gladdens Henry, a 21-year-old native of Jamaica.

“That’s over 40,000 bottles that won’t end up in a landfill,” he said.

The success prompted the college’s Earth Club, of which Henry is a member, to start planning for a similar event next year.

“Next year, we’re doing it again,” said Don Hall, a faculty adviser of the club. “It’ll be bigger and better, and we are tripling our performance.”

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