Dirt on Conservation: Ag plastic recycling project underway

I grew up in a recycling house and didn’t even realize it. My parents both grew up during the Depression and they would never throw anything out unless there was absolutely no other use for it or until it was beyond repair. My mother would wash out cans and jars to use for storage containers and, on the rare occasions we used disposable dishes, she would even wash those so that we could use them again and again.

Clothes were handed down to the next child in line until they were deemed unfit to wear and became cleaning rags, and whatever leftovers we had from suppers throughout the week became a “pot luck” style supper on Fridays.
Granted, with seven children, their main reason for recycling was to save money, but it reduced the amount of trash we sent to the landfill nonetheless.

Recycling

Today, recycling has become a part of our everyday lives and we are more aware of why it is important to recycle.

Recycling saves energy, land space and money. It reduces air and water pollution and preserves habitat for wildlife. Recycling even creates jobs. All these things are good for our environment, which is the main reason we recycle today. And our efforts are making a difference.
But more can always be done and since SWCDs work with farmers, it was a natural progression to somehow get farmers to recycle their agricultural plastic film wrap.

Giant marshmallows

The use of agricultural plastic film wrap has increased significantly over the years. Just drive by any farm and chances are you will see hay wrapped up like giant marshmallows and rows of silage all encased in ag plastic wrap. But what happens to all this plastic once the farmer is done with it?

Typically it is thrown into the trash and eventually goes to the landfill. Some farmers will burn the plastic, contributing to air pollution, while others may bury it or just pile it up with other debris creating a not-so-picturesque scene.

None of these ways are the best options from an environmental standpoint.

Now there is a program where farmers can recycle their ag plastic film wrap. Several local soil and water districts, Ohio Farm Bureau, OSU Extension, county commissioners, and the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Solid Waste Management District have collaborated on an ag plastic recycling program called Ohio RAPP (Recycling Ag Plastic Partnership). Ohio RAPP is in its infancy stage and is looking for environmentally minded farmers to participate in this recycling project.

400 super sacks

Ohio RAPP has actually joined forces with a similar project started last year by the Carroll County Farm Bureau. This project, which covers Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, and Tuscarawas counties, has so far distributed over 400 super sacks to farmers and has recently taken its first truckload of ag plastic to the recycling center.

The newly expanded Ohio RAPP is now targeting farmers in Ashland, Holmes, Stark, and Wayne counties as well as those first five counties; however any farmer who would like to participate in this program is welcome to stop into any of the super sack pick up locations and request a sack.

More information on this program, or for pick up or drop off locations, can be found at www.wayneswcd.org/agplasticrecycling.html or call the SWCD office in one of the participating counties.

How it works

The program is simple in theory and works like this: Farmers pick up a “super sack” from a local pick-up point. The farmer takes this super sack back to his farm and begins filling it with his ag plastic. Once the super sack is full, the farmer then takes the sack to a designated drop off point.

Once the drop-off location has a truckload of bags, somewhere around 50-70 sacks, the recycler is contacted for a pick up. Each sack could weigh up to 500 pounds, so each truck load has the potential of taking up to 30,000 pounds of plastic out of our landfills.
This recycled plastic is then shredded, processed and made into sidewalks and other products.

Make RAPP a success

SWCD offices have always known that many farmers are environmentally conscientious people and we are hoping that these individuals will step up to the plate and make Ohio RAPP a success story.

With a little effort, this used ag plastic doesn’t have to be burned, buried or taken to the landfill, it can be recycled and made into something else. When you consider that it takes more than 500 years for plastic to decompose, wouldn’t it make more sense to recycle that plastic and make it into a sidewalk or other product that could last that many years?

About the Author

Jodi Cespedes is an administrative assistant at Stark Soil and Water Conservation District. She has worked at Stark SWCD for eight years. More Stories by Jodi Cespedes

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