Lois Levitan (left center) and Karen Baase (right center) hold up two samples of net wrap. Levitan's sample, as opposed to Baase's, is an example of plastic that can be recycled.
Morrisville Madison County farmers learned first-hand last week how they can recycle plastic agricultural items through a program that will not only help prevent excessive clogging of the county landfill, but will also allow “ag plastics” to be reused and ultimately turned into oil.
The Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Madison County, in cooperation with Cornell Recycling Ag Plastics Project (RAPP) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, held a hands-on demonstration of the county’s agricultural plastics recycling program on Tuesday, July 23, at Morrisville State College’s Dairy Complex.
Participants learned about various kinds of agricultural plastics products found in the waste stream and heard how some of those products are being recycled by the Solid Waste Department of Madison County. The demonstration covered steps in assembling and bundling ag plastic appropriate for delivery to Madison County Landfill or to any of the transfer stations in Cazenovia, Hamilton or Sullivan.
Currently the whole solid waste stream amounts to approximately 260 million tons in the United States for one year, said Karen Baase, the association issue leader at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County. Of that 260 million, plastic amounts to about 31 million tons.
“In agriculture we’ve seen a huge amount of plastic being used,” Baase said. “We don’t see tower silos going up anymore. We don’t see the old infrastructure like we’ve had in the past — people just can’t afford that. So the alternative has been ag bags, or bunk plastic to preserve the forage stores.”
But what should those who use ag plastics do with their bunk covers, for example, once the plastic is no longer needed?
“Thanks to the innovation from [Madison County] and from other counties around the state, there is some momentum building up where we can reuse these products and put them back into the recycle stream so they don’t go an fill up our landfills,” Baase said.