Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Dani and Kodi Bates scramble up the strings of orange, blue, yellow and green to grab the top as King (or maybe Queen) of the Baling Twine Mountain.

"It's kind of a good play station," their mom, Sara, says as the girls giggle and fall down for a soft landing.

She's collected this pile of twine - 17,000 pounds of it - over the past week and a half to begin her venture of recycling products that would normally go up in smoke or get sent to the landfill.

Sara grew up on a Keating ranch and she knows how baling twine piles up during the winter months.

"You braid the twine, make rugs out of it, halters," she says. "Everybody wants to do something with it."

She and her husband, Clay, moved back to Keating five years ago.

The problem of excess twine still bothered her, and this spring she decided to do something about it.

"I was looking for something I could do to help the community," she says. "And it's environmental stewardship. Everyone's being more environmentally conscious."

She's signed a contract with AgriPlas Inc. in Brooks (near Salem) to recycle baling twine, ag bags and nursery plastics (such as the plastic containers plants are sold in).

In her research she found that recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,500 gallons of gasoline.

Plus, burning twine, which is made of polypropylene, isn't a good idea - according to the DEQ, burning plastics and any fire that emits black smoke or offensive odors is prohibited and can result in a $10,000 fine.

Earlier this month Sara began visiting ranches in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties to explain her new service.

"A lot of them know me as one of the kids," she says of the local ranchers.

She's gotten a good response so far, and many immediately load a big pile of twine into her red truck that can hold 2,000 pounds.

For others she's left bags with a one-ton capacity that ranchers can stuff with twine.

"Then they can call me when they're full," she says.

Her days are like this: she homeschools her girls until noon, then heads out with her truck.

"Then I go out until I'm done," she says.

Right now she's piling the twine and awaiting a grant to help pay for a baler. Then, once she gathers 40,000 pounds, she'll bale the twine and ship it to AgriPlas.

The Brooks facility then shreds the load and presses it into bales, which are sent to companies that melt it down to make new twine, auto trim parts, garden tools and garbage cans.

"There's an insane number of things they can do with it," Sara says.

In addition to ranches, she's also stopping once a week at Eagle Cap Nursery in Keating to gather plastics, including soil bags and the containers used for plants, shrubs and trees.

Eagle Cap owners Robin Lohner and Marian O'Connell say gardeners can bring all their plastics to the nursery, where Sara will stop every Monday.

For more information about recycling baling twine, or to schedule a pick up, call Sara at 518-6924 or Clay at 518-2100.