A first for Illinois: Glen Ellyn installs playground made of recycled ocean waste
Glen Ellyn's newly renovated playground is the first of its kind in Illinois -- it's made from recycled ocean waste, including fishing nets.
"We have a strong environmental ethic here at the park district," said Nathan Troia, the Superintendent of Planning and Natural Resources at Glen Ellyn Park District. "Part of our mission is to lead by example to show the community how things can be done."
The playground, which opened last week at Sunset Park, uses equipment from manufacturer Kompan. The "GreenLine" products are developed by repurposing post-consumer waste, reducing carbon emissions by up to 66% compared to the company's original plastic model.
The district follows a replacement plan for each of its playgrounds, aiming to revamp the spaces every 10 or 15 years. Sunset Park's playground was last renovated in 1993. Troia said the space is a central community playground given its proximity to Sunset Pool and the village's downtown area.
"We've gotten great feedback on the playground itself," Troia said. "We've gotten strong responses to the Kompan GreenLine product and the environmental aspect of it."
Glen Ellyn's new structure is the first full Kompan playground in the state, though the company has installed a few smaller pieces in Chicago.
Kompan, which was founded in Denmark and has since expanded worldwide, including to a headquarters in Austin, Texas, launched its GreenLine products in 2021 and expanded the series to full playgrounds last year.
The equipment panels are made from recycled maritime waste while posts are built using recycled textiles and plastic bags that have been melted down and made into pellets.
"Kompan as a company has been very conscious of sustainability for quite a while. We started by making sure that all of our playgrounds were recyclable, and then started using recycled material in the core of our standard playground," said Tiffanie Sperling, a Kompan direct sales representative. "It's been a pretty cool journey and in our opinion, it's just the beginning. We want the norm to be what our high-end is right now. We want that to be kind of the median of what everybody is expected to offer in the way of playground design."
Sperling added that the environmentally friendly aspect of the playgrounds is also of interest to the kids who play on them.
"Kids are concerned about our environment. When you tell a kid that what they're playing on was made from recycled materials, and it's to make the earth better, they love that," Sperling said. "They get it because they're growing up with this. They know it's a concern."
The park district is currently working on one final step: including an informational sign to let people know more about the equipment and how it uses recycled materials, Troia said.
Additionally, the district plans to renovate the nearby Sunset Pool as part of a voter-approved referendum in 2022. The outdoor pool will be outfitted with new waterslide features, a splash pad, family changing areas, shade structures and outdoor seating.
Construction is expected to begin this August and be completed before the pool reopens next year.
• Jenny Whidden is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see dailyherald.com/rfa.