The Daily Star
---- — A local effort is under way to keep plastic from farms out of the waste stream and put it to good use.
The Otsego County Conservation Association signed on with Cornell University to represent Cornell’s Recycling Agricultural Plastics Project in February, and is ready to reach out to local farmers to help them participate in this statewide effort. OCCA Program Director Travis Sauerwald will lead the local project in conjunction with RAPP coordinators, the Otsego County Soil & Water Conservation District and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“RAPP provides an exciting, environmentally responsible method of disposing of agricultural plastics by recycling old products into new,” OCCA Executive Director Darla M. Youngs said. “We’re eager to start working with the Otsego County agricultural community through this statewide recycling initiative,” she said.
According to the media release, farms use a lot of plastic in the growing, processing and storage of crops, and up to the point, the large plastics have been difficult to get recycled, in part because they are cumbersome to manage.
The RAPP program will take agricultural plastics and convert them for use in sidewalk pavers, plastic lumber, oil and other products. The program aims to provide mobile compaction equipment for use on farms and in rural areas to make storage easier. Since 2009, RAPP has coordinated the collection of nearly 1 million pounds of used plastic that would otherwise have gone into landfills, been burned in open fires, or left behind in fields.
Sauerwald will be working directly with Otsego County farmers to develop a recycling plan that meets their needs and the requirements of the program to reroute agricultural plastics from the waste stream.
“When a farm collects enough plastic to make a full 1,000-pound bale, RAPP will arrange to have a plastic baler brought to the site,” Sauerwald explained. “For those handling smaller volumes, their plastic can be baled along with plastic from other farms.”
Otsego County users of film or rigid plastics in agriculture — including livestock farmers, landscapers, producers of maple syrup and horticultural crops — can call Sauerwald at 282-4087 to learn more about the RAPP program and how to participate locally. Site visits will be scheduled, after which Sauerwald will assist program participants in developing individualized best management plans to prepare their plastics for recycling.
More information about the initiative is available onlinen at http://environmentalrisk.cornell.edu/AgPlastics.