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A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Sunday, August 5, 2018

As you may know, although I try to always show the positive side of recycling and all the good it does in saving natural resources and the environment, there are those who think negatively about it. Thus, to show both sides, an item in one of the newsletters I receive caught my eye.

“The U.S. recycling market disruption from China’s import restrictions has received mainstream media attention since the beginning of 2018. But recently, the issue has engaged a handful of right-leaning opinion writers.

“Several recent opinion pieces have framed the Chinese scrap import ban as indicative of fallacies inherent to the recycling industry – and government-provided services in general.”

One magazine published an opinion piece that attacked every aspect of the recycling industry. The magazine alluded to the current market crisis, describing recycling as “a fancy lefty way of saying ‘trash.’”

Another magazine used a headline on the recycling market downturn with, “Recycling: Another environmental scam goes bust.” Even some newspapers published opinions such as recycling is a “feel-good green scam” and recycling “never was a green virtue, it was mostly a scam.”

However, the article did also mention, “The recycling industry, of course, is no stranger to pointed criticism from columnists and other voices across the media spectrum, especially when markets are down.”

Of course, there will always be negative thinkers, our government seems to be full of them. But to me, recycling has definitely been good. Can you imagine all the cans and bottles that might be scattered along highways and vacant lots if it wasn’t for people recycling them? The same goes for old junked vehicles.

And don’t forget the plastic bags that otherwise might be blown all over. And when you add in all the energy saved by recycling rather than using virgin materials, recycling definitely has helped our nation, in my opinion. Added to that, for me, it feels good to do it.

Changing subjects, having grown up on a farm in Minnesota, this item attracted me, It concerns a company involved in the recycling of plastic from farms, primarily starting in California, but now expanding to Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In those two state, they now have 4,400 dumpsters on farms and plan to increase it by at least 1,000 more by the end of the year, adding about 2,000 new customers. The dumpsters hold about 1,400 pounds when full.

Currently, the company collects more than 250 million pounds of agriculture plastics per year.

They handle only low density polyethylene film, as that is what their parent company uses in its production plants.

“We collect [only] items that we can wash, clean and turn into post-consumer resin and put back into our own facilities and our own products,” a spokesperson said.

At this time, the material collected in Minnesota and Wisconsin goes to the company’s processing plant in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

The company recently acquired a processing plant in California so they no longer have to ship material from there to Arkansas.

There is more of this material in California where herds can average between 3,000 and 5,000 head whereas in Wisconsin the average herd is about 150 head. And there is a lot of this material used throughout the country. One widely reported figure estimates more than 1 billion pounds of agricultural plastics sold into the marketplace each year.

“In the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, northern Illinois, northern Iowa, there’s no excuse for any farm not to be recycling right now,” a company spokesperson said.

Some farms stored this plastic until they realized this company would take it.

The largest amount they collected from a single farm was 150,000 pounds of plastic from a single farm in a single day. Other farms reported they had a small pile of plastic to recycle and it could turn out to be closer to 70,000 pounds.

So till next week, do have an enjoyable one...

--Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or e-mail omaier@txstate.edu.

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