Net-wrap from round hay bales has been cluttering road ditches and fields in the southwestern part of the state this spring, says a University of Missouri (MU) Extension specialist. So he’s asking hay growers and livestock producers to act more responsibly when disposing of the material.

The problem, says Schultheis, a natural resources engineer, is that the net-wrap is extremely durable. That’s a good thing for preserving hay quality, but an “Achilles’ heel” when it comes to disposal.

"The (net-wrap) is made to not be readily biodegradable, because its purpose is to hold the bale together for months or years,” says Schultheis. Net-wrap is difficult to recycle due to the hay fibers, soil and rocks intertwined with the plastic. There is no ag plastics recycling program in southwestern Missouri, he adds.

Net-wrap left in fields or found in road ditches can become a choking hazard for livestock and wildlife. It can also create breeding grounds for mosquitoes or rodents, and in ditches can block the flow of water by trapping runoff debris.

According to Schultheis, net-wrap should not be burned because of the toxic smoke and particulates emitted. "Really, in the absence of recycling programs, the best option is to be diligent about collecting the net-wrap when it is removed from the bale, keep it securely stowed during transport, and dispose of it through a household trash service, where it will be landfilled."