Disposing of waste ag plastics – everything from silage bags and bale net-wrap to baling twine and feed and fertilizer bags – has long been a source of frustration for hay growers and livestock producers like Bill Findley, Waynesburg, OH.
“When it comes to getting rid of the stuff, most farmers want to do the right thing for the environment,” says Findley. “But there just aren’t a lot of good options. You can haul it off to the landfill, but there’s a cost to that, and the landfills are filling up.
“Or you can burn it. But then you still end up with a big black blob of material that you have to do something with. It’s a headache and a tremendous waste of a usable resource.”
He’s hoping that a recycling program recently launched by Carroll County Farm Bureau leaders, which has expanded to five east-central Ohio counties, may offer a solution. The group has teamed up with Terrecon, a California-based manufacturer that uses recycled plastic material for making interlocking sidewalks.
Terrecon has agreed to arrange for and pick up the cost of hauling waste plastic from the Ohio counties to a plant in Indiana.
Findley, with Ken Grigsby, another Farm Bureau member, started looking into ways to tackle the problem about three years ago. “We checked out a lot of different processes, including a process that breaks down the plastic into its elements, oil and carbon,” says Findley, who serves as program point-person for the Farm Bureau group. “That seemed promising, but due to the transportation and collection-processing requirements, it didn’t meet our economic model.”
Figuring out collection and storage logistics has been the major challenge with the Terrecon project. To make the process relatively easy for cooperating farmers and others, county Farm Bureaus distribute large super-sack bags, measuring 36-42” on each side and around 58” deep. Each can hold at least 800 lbs of recyclable plastic.
The bags can be hung on fence posts or barn walls, filled by hand and compacted with front-end loaders. Large, white plastics, used for silage bagging and baling wrapping, go into one bag. Smaller, colored materials; baling twine; feed bags; and net-wrap go into a different bag.
“The company makes both white and colored sidewalks, so they wanted it separated on the farm,” explains Findley.
Once bags are full, farmers are responsible for hauling them to collection points set up in the five counties. “You have to have the right spot for the collection,” he says.
“Right now, we’re working with farm supply and feed stores and implement dealerships. You need an area large enough to store a bunch of the super sacks and a parking lot big enough for a semi to come to a dock for the pick-up. And it helps to have a skid steer or fork lift on hand for loading up the truck.”
Findley and Grigsby’s goal is to eventually have two collection points in each county. “That seems to be about the right number to make the pick-up cost-effective.”
This summer, more than 100 super sacks were distributed to farmers and others in the five-county area. “We went to three county fairs to let people know about what we’re doing,” says Findley, adding that the local solid-waste district recently received grant funding that can be used for advertising to build more farmer awareness of the program.
“There was a lot of interest. Farmers like the idea of recycling this stuff so that someone else can get some use out of it.”
Filled super sacks trickled into existing collection points this past summer. Findley expects it will pick up this fall. “We figure that we’ll do most of the collections in the fall and winter when farmers are feeding their wrapped hay bales and bagged silage.
“It’s still in its infancy stages,” Findley says of the program. “But this is the best shot we’ve had in three years. We’re learning as we go along, but we are making progress.”
To contact Findley, call 330-866-3018. Grigsby can be reached at 330-735-2743.