Twine Lady Turns Problem Into Profit

Sarah Bates used to weave horse halters out of plastic twine. Now she turns tons of twine into a profit for herself, at the same time cleaning up a big problem for area cattlemen.

It's against the rules to burn plastic in Oregon, but there hasn't been a market for used twine because of the dirt and hay mixed in with it, explains Bates. I found a plastic recycler that will take it as is.

Bates supplies her customers with 1-ton grain totes or super bags- to store their twine. She suggests they hang them on a fence near the cattle and, when done feeding, toss in the twine. The bags make it easier for her to pick up the twine and help keep the twine cleaner.

Less contamination means more profit, and a better chance that I can stay in business and provide this service, she notes.

One thing she isn't worried about is running out of twine. She estimates a cow will eat about three tons of hay a year with each ton generating about 2 lbs. of twine. At 6 lbs. of twine per animal per year and an estimated 62,000 cows and calves in her county, there is no shortage of twine. That's not counting the other agricultural plastic she is collecting like bags and plant row covers and pots.

Finding a company that would accept agricultural plastic was the hard part. Agri-Plas, Inc. of Brooks, Ore., turns used plastic into pellets or, in the case of twine, shreds it. The innovative company is also developing a process that will turn used plastic back into a petroleum product that can be refined like crude oil is today.

Bates is excited about providing her free service to area farmers and ranchers. With the purchase of a heavy-duty compacter/baler, she is turning the twine into 1,000-lb. bales, which she can more easily transport to Agri-Plas.

I got the idea when I saw a big pile of twine and thought there had to be a way to use it, she recalls.

Bates is very confident of her future and says she would be glad to help others considering the same type of business. She is currently available as a consultant.