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New Baler to Arrive at Recycling Center This Summer

Jun 17, 2023Jun 17, 2023

Bales in the Ray Lovato Recycling Center wait to be transferred out of the facility. Courtesy photo

ROCK SPRINGS — The Ray Lovato Recycling Center (RLRC) will be receiving a new baler sometime this summer which will completely transform its operations.

The new baler cannot come soon enough as the current baler has continued to have problems and broke down at least two times in April. According to RLRC Board President Devon Brubaker, the first breakdown was caused by an electrical issue with the PLC. The baler was down for two days for that breakdown. The second outage was caused by a hydraulic system issue and was less than one day. However, the failures could not have come at a worse time.

"These two failures came during a time when the center was inundated with two weeks worth of recycling all in one week due to the blizzard at the beginning of April and when we were short staffed," Brubaker said.

Even though the baler is back up and running, the center is still experiencing maintenance challenges with its forklifts and that has been hampering the daily operations. Until the new baler arrives, the center will continue to make do with what they have.

The new baler will cost $141,000, which will be the center's largest infrastructure investment in its history, Brubaker said. Grant funding, donations, the center's revenue, and funds received from the City of Rock Springs and Sweetwater County Solid Waste District No. 1 will help pay for the baler. The center also received a series of grants from the Kim and Jody Brown Family Foundation which contributed $60,000 over the last three years towards this purchase.

Despite all of the funding, the center still needs to raise $30,000 before the baler is delivered later this summer. The recycling center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that relies heavily on the support of donations, volunteers, and funding from the city and solid waste district, Brubaker said.

As the amount of recyclables has continued to grow over the years, the need for the baler has become more evident. The information below shows the growth in the amount of materials being recycled since 2017.

* At the end of CY2022, the center was sitting on 230 bales or 230,000 pounds of cardboard due to severe market pressures that would have resulted in the center having to pay to send the product to market. The market has improved enough in the new year for use to send that material to market.

"The new baler can support all products we process except books and magazines," Brubaker said. "This includes plastics with lids, aluminum cans, steel cans, mixed paper, shredded paper, newspaper, and office pack. This will increase processing efficiency by not having to remove lids from bottles."

Many volunteer hours are spent taking lids off of plastic containers and with a small staff that's time that can be better spent doing other things. Brubaker was enthusiastic about how he and the volunteers would no longer have to remove the lids for the plastic bottles.

"By baling mixed paper, office pack, newspaper, and steel cans, we will increase the value per ton we receive, as baled material is generally 22-60 percent higher than loose material we currently ship," Brubaker said. "Currently, we are only able to do plastics and cardboard in the horizontal baler."

The new baler will increase the bale weight which will ensure the center is sending out full loads out. "Since freight is determined based on a full truckload, the more weight we can distribute that freight across, the higher net income off of recycling materials we will realize," Brukbaker said.

All of the decisions being made now are to improve and secure the center's future. By obtaining a baler now, the center can acquire an integrated conveyor system. This would allow for a continuous feed of all materials to the baler. Not only will it speed up the process, but cut down on the heavy lifting employees have to do now.

The center has plans on how to make the new baler and future conveyor system fit in the current facility. While the baler is similar in size to the current baler, the conveyor system will add 20 percent to the operational footprint. However, the long-term goal for the recycling center is to construct and move into a new facility closer to the landfill.

"Outside of the obvious challenges with finding a new location, this will only be possible if curbside recycling and strategically-placed collection points is available to our community," Brubaker said. "In order for curbside recycling to work in our community, we will need to procure sortation equipment."

This equipment will not be able to physically fit in the center's current location, which is why the board is looking at moving the recycling center closer to the landfill.

"Recycling is a volume game that requires immense amount of volume to be successful," Brubaker said. "The more people recycle, the more success and growth we will be able to experience."

ROCK SPRINGS Average Amount Recycled 2022: 1,777,000 pounds of materials shipped* 2021: 1,940,000 pounds of materials shipped 2020: 1,705,952 pounds of materials shipped 2019: 1,281,824 pounds of materials shipped 2018: 1,253,004 pounds of materials shipped 2017: 797,465 pounds of materials shipped