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Gathering Twine

For those who live on a farm, tangled piles of baling twine grow quickly, much of it destined for landfills.

Tenth-grader Alex Updegraff's family's goat and sheep farm in Rogue River can stuff an 80-pound feed bag with the polypropylene plastic twine in about four months.

"It drives me crazy throwing the twine away," Alex said. "I thought it would be cool to gather all the twine and recycle it."

Alex and two Rogue River High School classmates, sophomore Kaitlin Kindell and junior Joseph Mele are holding a twine drive this month at the Grange Co-op as a part of their Future Business Leaders of America project. The twine eventually will be shipped to Brooks-based Agri-Plas Inc. to be recycled.

About 30 million tons of plastic were thrown away in 2006 in the United States, taking up 11.7 percent of landfills, according to the EPA. Plastic, made of petroleum and natural gas, takes centuries to degrade.

Another aspect of the students' project was a survey of about 25 businesses in Jackson County to gather target market information for Agri-Plas.

The company is considering opening a location in Southern Oregon.

Currently, there is limited plastic recycling in Southern Oregon. Agri-Plas offers a pickup service to businesses, collecting shrink wrap and other plastic wrappers and containers for recycling.

The plastic is cleaned, ground up and sold for production of items such as flower pots, pickup bed liners and new baling twine.

The students queried businesses about the type and volume of plastics they throw away, disposal costs and whether they would be willing to recycle the materials if it was free to do so.

"They would rather it go toward something useful," Kaitlin said. "The plastic takes up a lot of space. Recycling it benefits businesses because it's free. Throwing it in the garbage costs something."

The businesses generated enough plastic for weekly pickup, said Paige Prewett, coordinator of Jackson County Saving Money and Resources Together Business Program, who served as the students' mentor.

The SMART business program helps support community efforts to come up with new recycling and conservation solutions.

The students' project will be entered in a state competition April 16 in Portland. They will be judged on their ability to generate interest in their business project, Prewett said.

To help boost participation in the twine drive, the students phoned local 4-H clubs, equestrian groups; and roping, penning, beef and horse clubs.

"Our people skills got really good," Kaitlin said. "We learned how to deal with different temperaments."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

From left, Rogue River High School students Alex Updegraff, Kaitlin Kindell and Joseph Mele hold a pile of baling twine. The students are working on a project they hope will bring a plastic recycling location to Jackson County. - Jim Craven