A barrel of plastic pellets sits in the yard of the Kimball Recycling Center. Plastic recycled by Keep Alliance Beautiful will be turned to this form as part of the process to become new products.

On my recent visit to the Kimball Recycling Center with other Keep Alliance Beautiful staff members, I found the facility much like I had pictured it. However, it seems that the community would be a little small to handle so much recycling materials from other towns. Through conversation with other Keep America Beautiful affiliates there that day I found the Kimball Center’s manager, Spud Rowley, has been instrumental in promoting a “hub and spoke” system.

This practice of handling recycling is set up like it sounds. The “hub” takes in material from several area communities -- the spokes -- and in turn transports materials to larger hubs or end markets where these recyclables become new products. Though Alliance or Scottsbluff are examples of more centrally located communities in the Panhandle, Kimball is located on Interstate 80 putting it close to a recycler at Ogallala and other markets, such as facilities in Colorado.

Affiliates at the tour and meeting all currently have a connection to the Kimball center or have the potential to become a spoke in the future. Two women attended representing Keep Chadron Beautiful (KCB). That community could possibly connect with Kimball directly, or maybe through Alliance, on a project such as an electronics drive Spud suggested during the luncheon meeting. Chadron recently lost access to drop off recycling after its provider, SWANN (Solid Waste Agency-Northwest Nebraska) pulled bins out of the community. KCB has had to deal with fallout from the move even though they had not been responsible for recycling in Chadron.

Taking on recycling would be a major endeavor for KCB no matter how they would approach it. At KAB we have seen the effects of SWANN’s choice. A few weeks ago, a few minutes before closing time, a man pulled up to the door of the recycling center. His station wagon was filled -- from behind the front seat to the back window -- with plastic shopping sacks full of recycling. He was from Rushville, more than an hour away in Sheridan County, and said he had been driving to Chadron to recycle until the bins there were taken away. As I helped him unload the man commented that he enjoyed getting out of town and thought traveling to Alliance was worth it to still be able to recycle.

In a way our KAB recycling center is a hub for Hemingford and these northern Panhandle residents who want to keep recycling despite the inconvenience of travel. I hope KCB can work to fill the gap yet we are happy to serve anyone who uses our trailers or shows up to unload at our door.

In addition to Chadron, Keep Keith County Beautiful (KKCB), Keep Sidney Beautiful (KSB) and Keep Nebraska Beautiful (KNB) were represented at the Kimball meeting. Chris from KKCB elaborated on the hub and spoke model. She referenced how it has been working in relation to her town (Ogallala) and Kimball. Over lunch, conversation promoted forming a separate affiliate in order to apply for a grant to fund transportation throughout the hub and spoke system in Northwest Nebraska. Chris noted that affiliates in other regions of Nebraska have been working to obtain funding to set up the hub and spoke model of recycling.

On the local level nobody gets rich recycling. State-level grants and local government funding make the process possible for KAB and other Panhandle communities. The more we can cooperate the easier it will be to keep recycling strong here and promote the option for our neighbors.

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