Jon Cook, entrepreneur of Boro Recycling LLC, recently reversed his usual collection process, having people bring recyclable plastics to his van during McKeithen's True Value Hardware's first anniversary celebration Oct. 12.
Usually, Cook drives a route to his residential subscribers’ homes each Monday, collecting plastic, metal and glass items they place curbside in 25-gallon lidded, blue plastic garbage cans. Residential customers pay $28 a month. He also runs a Thursday route to a few commercial subscribers, such as McKeithen’s , who pay $40 a month and fill larger 100-gallon polycarts. All the containers are marked with the Boro Recycling logo and phone number.
Cook launched his little collection and processing company in January after Bulloch County stopped accepting plastics at its convenience centers the previous fall. This followed a collapse of the U.S. plastic recyclables market triggered by China’s ban on accepting most exports of plastic waste.
“I started in January, and so far we're right at 10,000 pounds of plastic processed,” Cook said. “We're not keeping track of how much glass we've processed just because it weighs so much. We're right at about 150 weekly customers. So we're steadily growing with that."
So far just five of those are commercial customers, the rest residential. He accepts collection service subscribers anywhere in Statesboro’s city limits and in most subdivisions within two miles of the bypass.
"They put everything in there mixed together, all plastics, Number 1 through Number 7; all glass: jars, bottles; all metal food cans, metal drink cans; no paper and cardboard right now;” Cook said. “It doesn't have to be separated. We just ask that people rinse their material before they put it in."
He does not have a market for cardboard and paper and notes that the county accepts them at its convenience centers.
Working through an attorney, Cook is seeking patents for two machines and a method he designed to process plastics and glass. These now have “patent pending” status.
At first, Cook used the material he grinds and fuses to make decorative wall hangers and stepping stones and marketed these on his website, Bororecycling.com. But he has stopped making wall hangers in favor of higher-volume production of pebble-like aggregate material. He makes this in different colors and sells some of it as landscaping material he says people mistake for river rocks.
He also fuses it directly into pavers and makes other pavers by mixing the aggregate into concrete.
A donor day
That Saturday morning at McKeithen’s on Fair Road, Cook provided a sort of plastics amnesty day. Of course he didn’t charge anything, since he wasn’t driving a route.
Individuals bringing in plastic recyclables viewed it as a contribution to a good cause.
"I appreciate what he's doing because our county doesn't seem to think it's important anymore, they won't take plastic recyclables anymore, so it's good to get somebody like Jon taking care of the environment,” said Rick Graham, a Bulloch County resident who lives too far out of town to become a curbside collection customer.
"I'm really close to one of the recycling centers, so we recycle everything but plastic at the center, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for him at these events and definitely will be donating to him,” said Melanie Sparrow, wearing a GreenFest shirt and carrying a reusable shopping bag filled with plastic bottles.
From 9 a.m. until noon that day, Boro Recycling received 325 pounds of plastic. After the van was jammed full, Cook’s father-in-law, Steve Jones, let the back of his pickup truck be filled with more recyclable plastic.
The previous Monday they had collected 290 pounds of plastic from curbside customers, so the donations boosted the total to 615 pounds for the week.
Big goal for 2020
“As a point of reference, there are approximately 40 water bottles in one pound of plastic. Also, officials with Bulloch County Solid Waste estimated they collected approximately 1,000 pounds of plastic per week at the recycling centers while they were still accepting plastic,” Cook emailed. “It is exciting to see that we are well on our way to matching that number and have a goal of exceeding it by the end of 2020.”
Previously a Marine and a construction company employee, Cook now works for Grace Community Church as its director of missions. He said he works at both all the time and so far hasn’t added any employees for Boro Recycling
"It's still just me, mostly.” Cook said. “I do have my father-in-law who helps with driving and all, but right now I'm in the final stages of research and development, so as soon as I get all of that finished up, the goal then is to expand to really be able to handle just all of Stateboro's recycling needs.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.