GROW stays mission-focused as recycling market fluctuates

Hunter Herbaugh
Sunday, September 18, 2022
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A truckload of cardboard to be recycled leaves the GROW facility last fall. Ranger-Review file photo

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GROW volunteers (L to R) Bruce Peterson, Marie-Christine Lamphier, Linda Cunningham, Bill Peterson, Carole Wilondek, Mike Wilondek, Jan Mullet, Bonita Jenkins, David Mullet, JoAnn Hunt and Greg Hunt with the organization’s new sign at its Submitted photo

The group is business as usual as they anticipate the arrival and construction of a new facility next spring

The market for used cardboard has dropped significantly over the last year, creating some issues for recycling organizations. However, Glendive Recycles Our Waste, the local cardboard recycling authority, isn’t worrying about the prices too much, as they believe their mission of keeping cardboard out of the landfill is more important than the money they get for it.

“The money is not the first thing, we’re not trying to make a profit,” noted GROW volunteer Donna Merrill.

Standard recycling operations work by collecting a recyclable material, such as cardboard or plastic, and selling it to a processing facility, using the money received to help cover operations expenses. The recent price drop has made it difficult for some operations to keep going as they were before.

Bruce Peterson, GROW’s treasurer, said that prices for cardboard this year have been ranging between $35 to $50 per ton when last summer the average price was roughly $120 per ton.

Prices tend to change each month, according to GROW president Bonita Jenkins.

In Lewistown, for example, cardboard recycling is on hold until further notice. The drastic drop in cardboard prices meant that Snowy Mountain Industries, the entity that was facilitating cardboard recycling in Lewistown, changed the process from a revenue stream into an expense, according to the Lewistown News-Argus.

There are some proponents of cardboard recycling in Lewistown that are exploring options to get the process back up and running.

For GROW, however, Peterson said there haven’t been too many major disruptions to their own operations. He explained that because GROW does not have a lot of overhead expenses, the fluctuation in the cardboard market hasn’t had a lot of impact on the local group.

“Since our expenses are pretty minimal, we’re able to pretty well keep operating,” he said.

The most significant issue the organization has been dealing with recently is getting a truck to transport the cardboard. Peterson noted that with the increases in fuel prices, the broker that GROW uses to schedule trucks has been having a hard time getting trucks together.

Jenkins explained that for plastics, which GROW also recycles, the money they spend on gas has always been higher than what they make by selling the plastic, but they keep doing it because they are dedicated to their mission.

For plastics, GROW members transport a small trailer to Billings when they have enough bails to make a full load.

GROW has also received significant community support that has helped the organization keep operating.

Just this year, the organization began a capital campaign to raise funds to build a new facility, as the demand for their services is outpacing their current location. That campaign has raised roughly $310,000, with Jenkins saying a building has been purchased and they are waiting for it to be shipped to Glendive. Donations are still being accepted.

Once the building arrives, it will be assembled on site, then additional contractors for electrical and plumbing work will be hired to finish it, according to Jenkins.

The building is expected to arrive in April.

Meanwhile, GROW members will continue to collect both cardboard and plastics for recycling.

Those interested in supporting the effort should note that Zion Lutheran Church is hosting a jambalaya dinner on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with all proceeds benefiting GROW.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@