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  • Writer's pictureKeep Yankton Beautiful

Recycle with Us for America Recycles Day!

Cindy Filips

GFWC members and KYB representatives gathering for a photo with just a small portion of the MANY bags collected!

For the past month, the Yankton Women's Club was involved in a project for the GFWC Environment Community Service Program. The group sponsored a plastic bag collection as part of Keep Yankton Beautiful’s designated activity for America Recycles Day which is observed on November 15th every year. This is a Keep America Beautiful national initiative and is the only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. Initially known as National Recycling Day, it was begun in 1994 by two employees of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality and had 40 states taking part. Since that time, over 14.9 million pounds of recyclables have been recycled and has inspired communities and individuals to recognize the economic, environmental, and social benefits of recycling. Keep Yankton Beautiful (KYB) is the only affiliate of Keep America Beautiful in the state of South Dakota. Keep Yankton Beautiful, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, receives no government assistance; instead, they are funded by the gracious support of individuals and businesses right here in our community.

For the past four years, Hydro Extrusions in Yankton has been a sponsor and promoter of America Recycles Day in conjunction with KYB. Hydro originated in Norway back in the 1940’s with a unique process for manufacturing fertilizer and became one of Europe’s first industrial giants. They are a leading industrial company committed to a sustainable future and have 28 plants in the United States as well as plants in 38 other countries. Continuing to progress on the recycling initiative, Hydro is adopting two more recycling programs such as zero-waste plastic bottle boxes as well as cigarette waste recycling. The cigarette materials get broken down and are repurposed into a wood-plastic composition such as outdoor furniture. For every pound of cigarette waste received, TerraCycle will donate $1 to Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention program. Partnering with TerraCycle, Hydro has broadened its contact list in order to have zero waste entering the landfill by 2030. These efforts give an estimated 10 tons of recyclable products that will have been reused, reduced, or recycled. This was not accomplished alone as feedback and support from several organizations have helped develop viable options for recycling hard to recycle products. A circular economy of reducing, reusing, and recycling creates a positive impact on the surrounding area including but not limited to carbon emissions, land use, quality of life, and more. In addition to all their incredible strides in recycling, our friends at the Yankton plant are collecting plastic bags for our recycling project. Hydro of Yankton also graciously provides the funds for KYB to purchase reusable shopping bags to hand out, and most significantly, they haul the plastic bags to Omaha to be recycled.

All the plastic bags gathered during the month-long drive are recycled at FirstStar Recycling and Firstar Fiber. It was formed in 1997 in Fremont, NE and quickly outgrew that facility; since they had several new customers in Omaha, they relocated there in 1999. Today, FirstStar is the largest facility of its kind in Nebraska. They employ over 110 people in the Omaha and Lincoln recycling operations, working with residential, business, and community customers and helping them to lower their disposal cost as well as earning added revenue. Many recycling places only want to work with the plastics that are recyclable by traditional means and have good end markets which are valuable for remanufacturing into new products. FirstStar works with those products and also works with plastics that are considered notoriously hard to recycle because they are so flimsy, such as plastic bags, bubble wrap, and foam packaging. Those have much more limited end markets, meaning fewer places willing to purchase those products and in the past, those products were destined for the landfill. FirstStar processes them into nuggets, flakes, or cubes and they are then used to manufacture products such as plastic lumber, rail ties, fence posts, decking, and wallboard. In FirstStar’s own facility, it uses the nuggets and cubes to make high quality plastic lumber used for outdoor chairs, benches, and decks. They have three grades – Basic, Standard, and Premium in a variety of colors.

Other manufacturing companies purchase this durable building lumber to make their own products. High school skilled and technical students are encouraged to use this material to build items like park benches, outdoor furniture, planters and more. Through community partnerships, these durable items can then be placed in schools or communities, providing a useful product, a way to demonstrate students’ abilities, and a tangible example of the value of recycling these previously wasted resources.

So, whether you have just a handful or a trunk full of plastic bags, please consider participating in the Plastic Bag Recycling Drive going on now until November 15th. Swap out your single-use bags for a sturdy, spacious tote bag at Explorers Credit Union or the Yankton Community Library. We appreciate these locations sharing their space as drop-off points during our drive. Thanks again to the Hydro team for their support of our mission; special recognition to Hydro’s Health, Safety, and Environment intern, Hanah Long, for the information she provided us on their recycling initiatives. Together, we can all do our part to Keep Yankton Beautiful!

Board member Nikki LaCroix helping stuff the Hefty ReNew bags to be transported and recycled

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