Crushed aluminum cans pile up in a large container behind the ABLE offices in downtown Bowman Thursday.

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For ABLE Inc. in Bowman, Earth Day is something they do everyday – just a little more so.

According to Carolynne Jones of ABLE Inc., it started in the 1980s.

The premise of Earth started in 1970 with Sen. Gaylord Nelson writing a bill to increase the awareness of the environment, she said.

Since ABLE started the recycling, they have been taking in aluminum cans weekdays, reaching more than 800,000 pounds several years ago.

But every Earth Day there is additional value to the cans being recycled.

The cans that are turned in, are crushed then picked up by the Baker Metal and Recycling in Bowman. “Josh will pick up our can container and bus it over to Baker. Baker Metal and Recycling is over in Baker Montana – those are the big guys. The place out here (in Bowman) is the smaller version.” she explained.

After the cans are processed in Montana, the company will give ABLE a check for the cans. ABLE Inc. started working with Baker Metal and Recycling in 2016.

Sometimes, the number of cans adds up. “In 1994, we took in more than 50,000 pounds. That April was huge.”

The 2020 total was down somewhat, but the morning of April 22, they had already crushed more than 1,400 pounds before 11 a.m.

“We were still open for recycling during COVID where people could drop off their cans. But, we certainly could not celebrate Earth Day,” she said. ABLE has a staff of approximately a dozen people working on the recycling. “Everyone here at ABLE is a paid employee.”

ABLE is also the drop-off site for the Ronald McDonald House, she added. “We take in the can tabs, weigh them, and cut them a check. We don’t get paid for that but we want to support the Ronald McDonald House in Bismarck.”

ABLE is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every weekday for recycling cans. “People bring their cans in and we pay them. Our annual event is to celebrate Earth Day. We offer an inflated aluminum price, which we contract with Baker Metal and Recycling. They have been great to deal with.

“Bruce Moore is the one who I call to find out about what the aluminum market is doing – what can we pay and he is the one who can tell me what we can pay for the inflated price. We are at 22 cents a pound and we got to pay 30 cents a pound for all of our Earth Day customers.”

She said the aluminum market fluctuates so much that there have been times when prices were low. “Last year, because of COVID, some people were not even paying out for aluminum. We have paid as much as 45 to 50 cents a pound (in the past),” she added. “We have paid as little as 16 to 18 cents a pound.”

ABLE has tracked every month since they started on May 1 in 1987. Since then, the largest Earth Day month total was 12,000 pounds in 2004, she explained. In 2020, the total dropped to slightly over 600 pounds.

“Our average for the month of April when we celebrate Earth Day is about 6,000 pounds,” she added.


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