System Solutions

By     Jul 29, 2015
Creative Community Fellow

Mary Hoffman

While researching possible plastic bailing twine recyclers, I stumbled across Laura Tyler, a Conservationist from Larimer County, at the opposite end of Colorado from where I live and work. It so happened that I had planned to be in her area that very weekend! I called her; we chatted about our common concern, and agreed to meet.

I don’t have to explain the experience of meeting a like-minded person to you, only to say that I needed the re-energizing that comes with it.  Although we have the same goal, we were approaching this community problem in very different ways. My business background was leading me to work with entrepreneurs who might reuse the material in order to raise awareness until we could quantify the scope of the problem. I was reaching out specifically to artists and craftspeople to add a creative touch. In the meantime my office was researching the recycling possibilities.

Laura’s approach is educating farmers and ranchers then developing a collection system to recycle.  Laura found a recycling center in her area, Waste Not, who is willing to store the plastic twine until they have enough to ship to a recycler.  Laura convinced farm and ranch stores in her County to allow her to locate collection containers for farmers and ranchers to drop off their used plastic twine at their stores.  Volunteers remove any obvious organic material, then pack the twine into what Laura calls “bean bags” to prepare for shipping. To my knowledge, no twine has been shipped yet.

The prospect to utilize Laura’s experience and system for the San Luis Valley and possibly as part of a statewide program is encouraging! I realize the problem is probably much bigger than what San Luis Valley entrepreneurs can manage to reuse.  Working with our local Colorado State University Extension Service Representative, we calculated that Southern Colorado uses and discards a whopping 92,980,000 feet of plastic bailing twine a year. Karl, our office geek, put it in terms that we can wrap our heads around. He calculated that it was enough twine to stretch from Alamosa, Colorado to Boulder, Colorado and back 76 times!

We also discovered that the closest recycler—980 miles away, one way—, requires a minimum of 40,000 lbs. of the plastic material before accepting it. They pay pennies per pound which won’t cover the transportation costs! This led me to call a friend of mine that works at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and she gave me the disappointing news that the EPA doesn’t fund new recycling programs.

Ugh!, it looks like we might be back to square one since we want to have a program that eventually sustains itself.

Until next post, Mary Hoffman


This photo is of a rug made with a hula hoop loom. Yes, you read right. With a hula hoop loom, anyone can afford to make a plastic twine rug. These are ideal for pet rugs since they are comfortable and can be cleaned with a garden hose.