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Methow Recycles is not just for the Methow

Methow Recycles is not just for the Methow: A look at one NCW community’s efforts to reduce waste and promote sustainability in our region

By Aspen Kvicala, Methow Recycles Outreach Coordinator

Living in a rural community imparts resilience and a certain “can-do” attitude, even when the task seems impossible to achieve. You learn to be flexible and heed the weather, you have to be creative to get what you need, and you quickly learn to rely on your neighbors.

Methow Recycles in Twisp, Washington was born twenty years ago out of just those values. The community had long been wanting a place that encourages resource conservation through recycling and waste reduction, a place where cans, glass, paper, and plastic didn’t have to sit in the landfill but could be reused again. In the late 90s, a local metal drive was met with such enthusiasm that a feasibility study was soon launched to see what it would take to open a recycling facility in the Methow Valley.

A recycling center is born

In December 2001, after years of fundraising and friend raising, in the middle of a blizzard, our baler arrived in pieces on a flatbed truck. That baler is still crushing and churning out bales of recycling today (in 2021 we processed 589 tons of recycling). All of the Methow Valley’s recycling comes through that baler at Methow Recycles, recycling that is destined for a new life mostly within our region:

  • We ship aluminum and tin to Wenatchee Valley Salvage and Recycling where it is melted down into metal bricks and sent off to become any number of items

  • Paper and cardboard are sent to Wenatchee where it gets turned into recycled paper towels and tubes, egg cartons, and apple cartons

  • Glass has a home in Seattle at Strategic Materials where it gets turned into either fiberglass insulation or new bottles

  • Plastic and comingled recycling are sent to the SMaRT Center in Spokane where they are sent to regional facilities

  • Hard to recycle items like batteries, paint, lightbulbs, and electronics are handled through various state and producer responsibility organizations that we partner with

How much recycling is actually diverted from our little rural part of the world? It is estimated that the Methow Valley accounts for 40% of all of the recycling generated annually in Okanogan County.

We are continually humbled by the active participation we see year in and year out. People are excited about keeping things out of the landfill, and it creates its own kind of community. Kids help their parents roll glass bottles down the chute. Friends stay and chat awhile over the aluminum bin. Conserving resources is a fun and infectious thing!

Volunteers help bale recycling

Beyond Recycling

Recycling our resources will always be an important part of the solution but it is not the solution. The other R’s need to take center stage—reduce, reuse, and repair. To encourage our community to not create waste in the first place, we’ve launched a handful of waste prevention programs that make wasting less easy:

  • Repair Cafes happen every third Saturday of the month. Local experts volunteer their skills to try to fix things for free! Anything from sewing and darning, tool sharpening, electrical and mechanical fixes, bike repair, and wood fixes you’ll find at repair cafes

  • ReMake Center is a place where you can find reclaimed building materials and home goods

  • Library of Tools and Things is where you can borrow all kinds of tools so that you don’t need to invest money and space for a tool you may only use once a year. We’ll soon be adding useful homesteading items including poultry processing equipment, camping gear, and home preservation supplies

You do not have to live in the Methow to use these programs! Partnering with other communities and organizations in our region like Sustainable North Central Washington and sharing resources is going to be crucial to reduce waste and live more sustainably. The next time you find yourself heading north, stop by Methow Recycles to borrow a tool, see our baler in action, or attend a repair café. We’re glad to have you!

Two of our fantastic volunteer sewers at a repair cafe

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