Darlington School: Darlington Connects: Ben McElrath (’02, LD ’15) & Alice Barngrover (’21)
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Darlington Connects: Ben McElrath (’02, LD ’15) & Alice Barngrover (’21)

Vicki Vincent | March 29, 2021 | 186 views

When the Darlington Connects program launched last year, our vision was twofold: to connect alumni with each other and to also connect them with current students. Ben McElrath (’02, LD ’15) was one of the first alumni to volunteer. After the Senior Ventures class selected and announced their projects for this school year, we learned that Alice Barngrover (’21) had chosen a recycling project as her focus. This line of work coordinates perfectly with Ben’s career and voila -- a Darlington Connection was in the making! 

Ben is the president of Rome’s Marglen Industries, an international leader in polyethylene terephthalate industry focused solely on environmentally friendly r-PET efforts. They specialize in processing post-consumer soda bottles into clean, sustainable fiber and resin. Once processed, they sell their products globally. 

Alice was so grateful to have the opportunity to visit the Marglen facilities. “Before I went to visit, I had no idea how massive the operation was,” Alice said. “Outside, there were huge amounts of plastics piled everywhere that they crush daily, and inside the facility the technology was so impressive.” Click here and here to read Alice’s blogs about her project. 

Ben mentioned that the Darlington project has been quite fun. He further noted that Marglen’s daily scale is much larger, as they use huge amounts of plastic each day. What Alice is collecting at Darlington is tiny in comparison to their operations. 

"We collect from Darlington a small trailer load every two to three months of about 500-600 pounds of plastic,” said Ben. “At Marglen, we purchase multiple tractor trailer loads with 45,000 pounds of plastic per load daily. We go through 400,000 pounds of plastic in a day in our recycling process.” 

Yet, regardless of the difference in scale, Ben and Alice’s collaboration has been mutually beneficial. One of the reasons Ben wanted to help Alice was the education dynamic of her project. 

“One of the components of the project is to educate the Darlington Community, not only about why it’s important to recycle but also how to recycle properly,” she said. “The hardest part of my project is keeping non-recyclable items out of the bins, educating students and faculty about emptying containers, not adding any trash to the recycling bins and knowing which plastic is recyclable. That’s a big part of making recycling successful.”

Ben is no stranger to the educational piece of his business. He and his daughter, Darden, a Darlington first-grader, produced a video for the Deaton Darlings kindergarten class during the pandemic to help educate the community about recycling. Marglen even became a recycling collection site for the Rome community during the pandemic when the local recycling facility was closed because of COVID-19. 

“It’s been amazing to work with Mr. McElrath and Marglen because they have been so open to working with us,” said Alice. “Mr. McElrath comes to campus himself to collect our plastic when the bin is full. Considering what a small amount of plastic we collect in comparison to his company’s needs, Mr. McElrath’s love for Darlington and his passion for recycling is obviously the reason he partnered with us … and for that I am very grateful.”

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Alice and sharing information about the benefits of recycling and a little about our business at Marglen Industries,” said Ben. “I loved getting to know her and I loved giving back to Darlington in such a meaningful way. I am happy to be a part of the Darlington Connects program and to be able to support students and fellow alumni.” 

To connect with Ben or become involved with Darlington Connects, please email connect@darlingtonschool.org.

Are you a Darlington alum (or do you know one) with an interesting career or community involvement? We'd love to spotlight you in a future blog! Please email connect@darlingtonschool.org if you are interested in being featured.