MONTE VISTA— The baling twine recycling program has been improving the San Luis Valley for roughly a year and a half, but there is still a lot of twine out there to wrap up.
The program began with the Fort Collins Conservation District doing recycling in Larimer County. The San Luis Valley Solid Waste Authority saw a great opportunity for expanding the program in the Valley, as agriculture, growing alfalfa and raising livestock are all integral components to the economic backbone of the region. As the twine is made entirely of plastic, it’s 100 percent recyclable, but only about two to three percent of the twine used in agricultural operations throughout the San Luis Valley is currently being recycled, according to Jim Clare with the Solid Waste Authority. Clare also explained how waste diversion and recycling are becoming major priorities throughout the state of Colorado and at the waste authority.
The regional landfill, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council and other organizations are all doing their part to ensure the Valley is contributing to these efforts and maximizing the resources available.
Baling twine can be dropped off at one of three local collection sites, free of charge, Big R of Alamosa, the Monte Vista Co-op and the San Luis Valley Regional Landfill. Once separated from hay, grass and other materials, it is packed into large sacks until the Valley has collected enough to take a semi-load to Waste-Not Recycling in Greeley. Waste-Not, received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and purchased a pelletizer which turns the twine into plastic pellets which can be used as a base material for manufacture into nearly any other plastic product.
The baling twine has to meet a strict standard of five percent or less contamination, which means what is dropped off at the local sites has to be cleaned and sorted. The waste authority utilizes the assistance of local agricultural youth organizations like Future Farmers of America chapters and 4-H groups, who use the sorting as community service projects or fundraising opportunities. Sargent and Alamosa’s FFA programs have already been involved in recycling efforts.
Recycling baling twine is beneficial in reducing waste and reducing space at the landfill, but not recycling it can have disastrous side effects. Discarding the twine in the field leaves it to be potentially consumed by wildlife and livestock, leading to illness or death. Birds can also collect the twine for nests, leading to strangling or other deaths as a result of becoming tangled in the twine. Burning it, as many farmers and ranchers do, is a toxic alternative. In addition to violating EPA standards, fumes from burning plastic have been linked to serious respiratory problems and possible organ damage, in addition to releasing more greenhouse gases. Clare also pointed out how twine causes problems with farm equipment and machinery, becoming easily wrapped around vehicle drive shafts and clogging compactors at the landfill.
The San Luis Valley Regional Landfill has collected about 15, four-foot by four-foot bags of twine and are getting ready to send them off for recycling. Adams State University also collects some of the twine and repurposes it through their art programs. Local twine has been recycled for floor mats, rugs and other designs integrated into the art curriculum. Even with the support of these local programs, the baling twine recycling program is still in need of community support, informing farmers and ranchers about the benefits of the free drop-off sites, as well as increasing funding sources.
According to Laura Tyler with the Fort Collins Conservation District, “Additional funding is needed to conduct a two-year transfer of the collection and sorting to these local youth groups [FFA and 4-H]. The expansion of this program allows for diversion of millions of pounds of waste twine and transfers an environmental challenge into products manufactured in Colorado. I plan to apply for grants through the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative since they have pledged support as partnering conservation districts. Some of the funding will support basic maintenance of the collection sites and communication with collectors in order to work out any modifications and to keep things neat and running smoothly. It also takes some time to educate people about the expected cleanliness and other small details. Usually the public becomes much more conscientious when they understand the value of recycling, especially the benefit to wildlife, the environment and the community.
Education, signage and PR are important components, which cost money.”
According to Clare, the San Luis Valley Regional Landfill has between 30 and 36 years of sustainability left, making recycling initiatives all the more pertinent. A recent audit by the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council found that Valley residents generate about 4.6 pounds of waste per peron per day, which although less than the statewide average of nine pounds, could still be improved. The majority of the waste generated daily is food waste. To improve the long term outlook of the regional landfill, the Solid Waste Authority separates tires from the other waste until roughly 7,500 pounds are collected, then the tires are shredded and baled or shipped for recycling. “It takes about four years to reach that amount,” Clare added. Tree branches brought to the landfill are also shredded to save room. The regional landfill also accepts motor oil from home oil changes, if in sealed containers, as well as CFL bulbs and small batteries, including cell phone batteries and AA, AAA, nine volt and six volt. A Valley-wide Waste Diversion Task Force also meets regularly to explore means to expand recycling services and address the waste in the community.
For more information on how to recycle twine or other materials or on how to involve a community organization in the recycling process, please go to twinerecycling.com, slvlandfill.com or contact Landfill Manager Jim Clare at [email protected]