The logistics of collecting, transporting and processing have been major hurdles in providing farmers with environmentally friendly alternatives to dispose of ag plastics. So says Lindsay Smith, founder and CEO at Terrecon, Inc., which uses recycled plastics to make interlocking sidewalks.
The common method of baling plastics before they’re transported to a processing facility is the wrong approach, she says. “You have to contract with someone to do the baling. The plastics are unwieldy and hard to bale.” Gravel and other materials cause baling and processing problems and bales have to be taken apart at processing.
That’s where the super-sack concept being utilized by the Farm Bureau group in Ohio comes into play. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for farmers to collect the material,” Smith says. “If it just creates more work for them, they may not want to do it. The least amount of handling is best for everybody.”
When farmers ask Smith why Terrecon doesn’t pay for the waste plastic, she responds that economics make it unfeasible. “We have to pay a lot to have it processed. We are the first company to tackle the challenges of processing ag plastic and turn it into a useful product. But farmers do get something out of working with us. They don’t have to pay to put their plastic in the landfill, and they don’t have to risk being fined for burning it illegally.”
Terrecon is currently working with farm groups in Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa on plastic-collection programs similar to the one being carried out in Ohio. Smith hopes to sign on more participants in those states and elsewhere in the Midwest. “We’re in the prototype phase right now. Our goal is to find out what works best so we can build an infrastructure that will enable us to efficiently move plastic from the farm to the processing plant.”
For more info, contact Smith at 714-964-1400.