Ag board considers new uses for farm plastics

NORWICH – For months, the Chenango County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board has been exploring new avenues for local farmers to dispose of plastic and new options were brought to light during the monthly board meeting last week.

Lois Levitan, program coordinator for the Cornell University Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project (RAPP), spoke to the board about options farmers have in disposing of agricultural plastics, which commonly include items like horticultural mulch film, drip tape, dairy bunk silo covers, pesticide containers, packaging and platic pallets. Traditionally, farmers have burned plastics with other solid waste, but open burning releases toxins and is a high risk for wildfires. A New York State regulation prohibiting open burning of trash went into effect in 2009 and since then, more and more farmers have been tossing recyclable plastics in the dumpster.

But according to Levitan, there is a niche market for agricultural plastics. Though not an easy goal, she said the key is to find a company willing to pay for agricultural plastic, which tends to be dirtier, bulkier or have a chemical residue. Such plastics could still be used in manufacturing plastic construction materials, machinery and in many cases, might even undergo a process to extract the crude oil originally used to make the plastic.

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